Here’s How Google Treats Its Employees Like Grazing Animals

A while back, we learned that Google may have actually instituted a company-wide "no fatties" policy, this in spite of the fact that it would be, like, discriminatory to do such a thing ever. Now, courtesy of some helpful illustrations that look like they've been pulled from the pages of Lyle, Lyle Crocodile, Fast Company is showing us how Google herds employees around the company cafeteria in subtle effort to have them make healthier food choices. Like goats or cows or whatever form of domestic livestock is most corrigible.

Jennifer Kukoski, the head of Google's People Analytics (read: Human Resources) department, explains that Google is focused on instilling healthy habits in all its employees, because as we all know, a healthy worker is a more productive worker. "When employees are healthy," she says, "they're happy. When they're happy, they're innovative." That's right — no one can innovate when they're so hungry they're fantasizing about taking a bath in a pool of chocolate while tearing hunks of salty dark meat off of a turkey leg. Sometimes, however, it's not enough for companies to merely offer healthy options at mealtime — they have to "nudge" their employees in the right direction, offering subtle cues as what will make employees more, ahem, innovative, and what will makes them poor candidates for fashion magazine cover models. Behavioral scientists have affirmed that such nudging works and Google, in its push to stay on the razor's edge of innovation, has begun testing ways to make their drones produce more honey, or whatever drones can produce that doesn't have so much sugar in it.

Some of these changes include simple things like Google doing away with the hanging candy dispensers all around its offices, which sound both awesome and admittedly a little much at the same time. The candy is now in opaque bins, so employees can't see if a candy snake is coiled beneath a thin patina of M &M's, waiting to strike at their greedy fingers. Unsurprisingly, caloric intake around Google dropped 9%. Other changes are more subtly controlling, like the placement of the salad bar, right in the middle of the cafeteria to draw attention to it. Meanwhile, the dessert bar languishes all the way in the corner of a room where some guy named "Cookie" tells you about how he lost all his teeth eating cookies everyday and now he can never have them again. Ever. (Desserts, by the way, have been reduced to three-bite size). Maybe the most unsubtle of these "nudges," though, is a sign casually informing employees that people with bigger dishes are probably going to load those plates up with mountains of food. Google considers this a "meta-nudge" in that the sign doesn't outright tell employees to put their huge piles of lasagna down, but shames them enough to go find a smaller plate for their kale.

While there's certainly nothing wrong with a company taking an active interest in its employees' health, such proactive health initiatives have the potential to siphon off company health insurance dollars that would otherwise help pay for what a company might deem an obesity-related or "preventable" illness. And "healthy," as we well know, isn't necessarily synonymous with "skinny," a distinction that threatens to get lost in company-wide initiatives that establish new eating trends and potentially create environments where the fitter seeming people, those people who most superficially embody the company's new culture, are at the top of a social hierarchy.

6 Ways Google Hacks Its Cafeterias So Googlers Eat Healthier [Fast Company]