Douwe Osinga's Blog: Living on Swiss Time

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

One big difference between Google Switzerland and Google Mountain View is that Google Switzerland is in the middle of everything while Google Mountain View was the middle of everything; both of course relatively speaking. In Mountain View you ate breakfast, lunch and dinner at Google, there is a hair dresser and a place to change your oil and you can do laundry, work out and get a massage. In Switzerland we don’t have all those things within Google, but usually within 5 minutes walk from Google, which in all fairness might be even closer than in Mountain View. It also seems to warp time.


One of the drawbacks of working from home they say, is that there is no longer a clear distinction between ‘work-space’ and ‘home-space’ and this lack of distinction leaks into the time division too. Doing a little work becomes an alternative to doing the dishes and vice versa, so you start cleaning the house when you want avoid something nasty at work and work nights because it is there. There is no clear break between work and non-work anymore. I think for some Zurich Googlers something similar is going on.


Most of us are very new to the city, so I suppose that it is only natural that we hang out together; all the locals already have friends and we have each other. Sure some of us, like me, have Significant Others, but these are sort of in the same situation so it doesn’t make that much of a difference. Most of us are in temporary housing (for us at least till the end of the month) so home isn’t really home. No decent Internet connection, no magically filled refrigerator. So you explore the things in the city, you go swimming on Saturday for example (the Züri seem to be very big on swimming in the lake, there are lots of little beaches and open-air-in-the-lake-swimming-pools), but then you pass the office on your way back, so you check your e-mail, see how this thingy you started worked out and before you know it, you are working again.


But then somebody says, hey, there is inline skating, let’s all go, it starts in 10 minutes and everybody goes (well, I didn’t, but quite some people did), which is great fun and then afterwards we go back to the office, then have a drink or two in a pub, listen to music and then go to the office again to make some phone calls to California where the people have just woken up (if only they would start working at 9AM). The fact that we usually go out for lunch only adds to this effect of course.


I’m sure things will change once people get settled down more, acquire fast Internet connections at home, get a proper espresso machine, that kind of thing, but it is interesting to see for now.