Google’s “20% time,” which allows employees to take one day a week to work on side projects, effectively no longer exists. That’s according to former Google employees, one who spoke to Quartz on the condition of anonymity and others who have said it publicly.
What happened to the company’s most famous and most imitated perk? For many employees, it has become too difficult to take time off from their day jobs to work on independent projects.
Mims goes on to note that Gmail, along with other successful Google products, was a 20% time project. I suppose the end of 20% time isn't surprising, but it is kind of sad. When Google first blew up in the public consciousness, the idea of a workplace that trusted their employees to goof off, to explore, and to have fun, felt like it could have been the beginning of something new. Unfortunately, that idea quickly became tied in to the extravagance of the dot com lifestyle. I'm all for extravagance if a company can afford it—I ate in a Google cafeteria once, and I will remember that meal fondly until the day I die—but I don't think allowing your employees to play really is an extravagance. I think it's how interesting things happen. But now that computers have invaded pretty much every job, these same companies that at one time preached a culture of fun and experimentation are making it easier for employers to keep track of every single second of their employees' time, which is killing fun and experimentation.