Google may encourage its workers to stay on duty for extended periods by offering three meals a day in the cafeteria, a gym, and plenty of play spaces. But rising rents in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area at large have meant that even some Google employees have found themselves priced out, and a few have tried just moving on campus full time.
The BBC just reported on the phenomenon, gathering accounts from three current and former employees (all male) who have lived out of vehicles in Google's parking lots for extended periods and otherwise taken advantage of all the creature comforts on the Mountain View campus. As they report, "the company does not encourage living at work, but it is not something it actively polices against."
It's funny and sensational, of course, because it proves that Googlers broadly assumed to be part of a "tech elite" but, obviously, not all paid equally generously struggle with rent just like the rest of us. And maybe working there isn't as awesome as most people assume. Also, maybe building a campus where you never have to leave kind of destroys the notion of life-work balance, but I digress.
The earliest example, drawn from this Quora forum, was a guy named Matthew Weaver, a "staff site ecologist" from 2005 to 2006, who said he "did it on a dare." He parked a camper in the parking lot with a little astroturf yard in front of it and lived there for a year, eating meals in the cafeteria, doing his laundry in company-provided washing machines, showering at the gym, etc.
There's also a guy who lived out of his Volvo station wagon, with blackout curtains and a twin mattress, for three months in 2012 in an underground parking garage on campus.
And there's the case of Ben Discoe, who says he lived out of a van in one of the parking lots for 60 weeks between 2011 and 2012, spending some nights here and there with a girlfriend who lived in Mountain View. Discoe says, "The only thing they don't give you was shampoo," and he adds, regarding what he did if he had to get up to pee in the middle of the night, "The answer is pretty simple, just walk the short distance to the nearest Google building and badge in."
As for the famed sleeping pods, he says, "they were kind of mocked," and he didn't really use them.