[Google] now ferries about 1,200 employees to and from Google daily — nearly one-fourth of its local work force — aboard 32 shuttle buses equipped with comfortable leather seats and wireless Internet access.The cost of the program, I suspect, is trivial compared to the benefits.
Its aim is to make commuting painless for its pampered workers — and keep attracting new recruits in a notoriously competitive market for top engineering talent.
And Google can get a couple of extra hours of work out of employees who would otherwise be behind the wheel of a car.
Google will not discuss the cost of the program.
Let's do a quick back-of-the-envelope on this one.
Let's assume 32 buses require less than 100 employees to operate (bus drivers running in two shifts + maintenance + coordination + admin). Assume a Google employee using the bus is able to work for at least extra one hour that would otherwise be wasted in the commute.
1200 Googlers using the buses * 1 hour = 1200 person-hours saved per dayThat is already a 3:2 ratio in time saved, but it gets even better. The average bus employee almost certainly makes less than 1/5th the average Googler. After adjusting for the salary differential, the difference becomes at least 15:2.
100 bus employees * 8 hours/day = 800 person-hours lost per day
So, even if only the extra work time provided for Googlers is considerd, the program almost certainly easily pays for itself, by nearly an order of magnitude.
Beyond this, as the Helft article states, there appear to be substantial benefits for recruiting and retention. That also has clear value.
Given this, I have long wondered why other companies do not imitate Google's strategy on perks. In particular, I am amazed that Microsoft does not run dedicated commuter buses from Seattle to Redmond given the length of that commute (> 1 hour) and the number of people who leave Microsoft or refuse to work there because of that commute.
See also the back-of-the-envelope calculations in my August 2005 post, "Free food at Google". In that post, I also cited business research on perks and said, "Perks can be seen as a gift exchange, having an impact on morale and motivation disproportionate to their cost."
See also my July 2004 post, "Microsoft cuts benefits", especially the update at the end where, fourteen months later, BusinessWeek blamed low morale and loss of key people at Microsoft on the benefit cuts.
See also my Sept 2006 post, "Management and incentives at Google", especially the references to other posts on perks and benefits at the end.
Update: Six months later, Microsoft launches bus service with WiFi from Seattle to Microsoft.