Chris Reed
Oct 3, 2012

Google V's Microsoft in the battle of the new workplace

To celebrate “In Design” which kicks off this week in Singapore and gets serious this Saturday with an open house of outlets with free wine/drinks and snacks I ...

Google V's Microsoft in the battle of the new workplace

To celebrate “In Design” which kicks off this week in Singapore and gets serious this Saturday with an open house of outlets with free wine/drinks and snacks I thought I would highlight two recent reviews of two offices of the world’s 2nd and 3rd largest technology brands.

Microsoft used workplace design agency HBO+EMTB to revamp their offices here in Singapore to general compliments from both inside and outside the organization.

Google on the other hand showed off their brand new London office (designed by Penson) recently and were slated.

The reasons why both had opposite reactions is clear. Microsoft took feedback from internal stake holders at all levels and workedwith HBO+EMTB to use the latest workplace design to create a positive and empowering work place environment.

Google on the other hand used Penson to create style over substance, a glossy environment that looked good to the people who designed it and was not user friendly to the people who used it according to a scathing report in the Financial Times (FT).

The Microsoft office was so impressive it was even featured on the front page of The Business Times here in Singapore as a model showpiece office of the future.

Having been to the Microsoft Office I can voucher for its dynamic nature, energy and focus on creative work flow. Having read the FT’s review of Google’s new office in Covent Garden I can contrast the two.

The FT’s highly critical review of Google included the fact that:

  • The main presentation was held in a claustaphobic windowless room akin to a cell and a brothel
  • No continuity of interiors with eclectic seeming to be the focal point of the designers work
  • People would be driven mad from the pretentious nature of the design
  • It looks like a granny flat!
  • Visitors are supposed to leave with the impression that Google is individual, quirky, fun, creative and of course cool – but leaves the opposite impression, trying to hard
  • Money can’t buy you cool design
  • The office is hideous!
  • The individuals have been overlooked in the office design
  • It reminded the writer’s daughter of a waiting room at a private hospital where someone had gone mad buying brightly coloured things to distract terminally ill infants…

The Daily Mail described it as the Big Brother house:

Compare this with the new Microsoft offices in Singapore which apparently has a high approval rating of both staff and partners.  As

New Microsoft office in Singapore

leading trade journal “In Design” say in their review of the new office it is a ”flexible, efficient, comfortable workspace designed to enhance staff creativity, collaboration and productivity”.

Microsoft actively encourage employees to work from wherever they feel most productive, home, work or elsewhere.

The office itself is described as empowering individuals to work where and with whom they want.

Technology has also been placed at the heart of the office design and unlike

New Google office in London - note desktops and last decade....

both Google and facebook offices there are no desktops only lap tops for the ultimate flexible working. Same applies for phones, everyone’s mobile (Windows phone preferred of course) is linked to the office phone system.

Staff apparently love the freedom, energy, the lighter and brighter space along with the new social café and technology centre.

New Microsoft office in Singapore well received by staff

A recent employee survey conducted with Microsoft employees based out of Singapore revealed that 54% of employees reported an increase in productivity levels, 49% confirmed that they collaborate more with colleagues and 77% reported an improvement in working environment over the previous one.

A satisfying report card of any new office if ever there was one. I wonder what Google's similar stats were?

Read full review at

A recent survey actually found that the most creative places need noise and

The Google "padded cell"

that the most conducive noise was actually a coffee shop. Maybe that will be the next office design innovation, an office café!


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