A Google employee who racked up thousands of views with videos showing off the perks at the tech giant’s swanky offices has tearfully documented being caught up in a mass lay-off.
Nicole Tsai, whose role at Google was Partner Services Program Manager, according to her LinkedIn profile, had been vlogging about “a day in my life” at the company — enjoying free candy, games, catered lunches and coconut waters, Harry Potter-themed meeting rooms and massage chairs.
“I’m heading over to this butterfly-themed meeting room to take my first meeting, then I’m going to head over to the confetti room to take my next meeting — it’s so sparkly and beautiful in here,” she said in one TikTok video earlier this month.
“Next I’m going to go upstairs and grab some lunch. They always have pizza and a variety of different vegetables and meat, the food is always really good and of course, everything you see in the office is free.”
In the video, Ms Tsai rounded out her day by patting a “Doogler”, or “dog Googler”, and taking a ghost tour of the office, before settling into a massage chair to unwind.
The viral trend of young employees at tech firms like Google, Meta, Twitter and LinkedIn showing off their ritzy workplace benefits, while seemingly doing little actual work, has sparked debate online in recent months, with some blasting the companies as “adult daycare”.
But with the once-unassailable tech sector facing a huge downturn, many of those same employees are now facing the axe.
On Friday, Google’s parent company Alphabet announced it would slash nearly 12,000 jobs worldwide, the latest in a series of mass lay-offs across the industry.
Laid-off workers were reportedly informed by email, though in some cases, they only knew they had been fired once they arrived at work, where their access badges were denied.
“Laid-off Google employees were notified of their termination by email overnight,” read a Twitter “Community Notes” clarification, citing NPR. “Those that didn’t check their email before going in to work did not realise that they had been terminated until they tried to use their access badges.”
The cuts represent a little over 6 per cent of its total 187,000-strong global workforce.
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said the cuts came after a “rigorous review”.
“Over the past two years we’ve seen periods of dramatic growth,” he said.
“To match and fuel that growth, we hired for a different economic reality than the one we face today. We’ve undertaken a rigorous review across product areas and functions to ensure that our people and roles are aligned with our highest priorities as a company. The roles we’re eliminating reflect the outcome of that review.”
In a video which has been viewed nearly three million times, Ms Tsai documented “a day in my life getting laid off at Google”.
“I woke up to this really ominous text from my boss … I rushed downstairs to find out that I had lost access to basically everything,” she said.
“I called my boss back and we just sobbed over the phone. It just felt like a really bad game of Russian roulette, there was no consistency around who was let go. It was also not performance based, so it just felt really random.”
Ms Tsai said seeing other “shocked and blindsided” co-workers posting on LinkedIn was “not great for my mental health”.
“Honestly I spent so much of the day crying that I just felt so tired from being sad and wanted to do something that would make me feel better,” she said. “Luckily I have an annual pass so I headed over to Disneyland.”
Posting on LinkedIn, Ms Tsai said she was “completely blindsided by this decision, but there is some comfort knowing I’m not the only one”.
“I’ve always dreamed of working at Google, and feel grateful to have fulfilled that dream,” she wrote. “I’ve certainly enjoyed every minute of being a Googler.”
She listed her highlights as “visiting 10 Google offices”, “presenting at conferences and at universities”, launching the “Delivery Readiness Index with an amazing team” and “leading Women@Irvine, the employee resource group”.
“I don’t know what’s next — get yoga teacher certified? Grow my Etsy shop plant business? Almost at my 1000th sale!” she wrote.
“I’ll be spending some time looking for new opportunities and enjoying this time off.”
Many of her TikTok followers expressed sympathy.
“Blows my mind how big [tech companies] like Google will always have endless revenue and still lay-off people. Just shows how little they care about their workers,” one person commented on her video.
“My heart goes out to you and your co-workers,” wrote another.
But some took the opportunity to troll the tech worker.
“I mean, I’m astounded lay-offs didn’t happen quicker,” one person wrote under the earlier video.
“This makes me understand the mass lay-offs,” another said.
“Basically a daycare for adults,” a third wrote.
Google’s lay-offs come after a major job-slashing wave at big tech firms.
On January 5, Amazon said it would cut more than 18,000 jobs from its workforce, citing “the uncertain economy” and the fact it had “hired rapidly” during the pandemic.
During Covid, the online retail giant had gone on a hiring spree to meet an explosion in demand for deliveries, doubling its global staff between the beginning of 2020 and start of 2022.
It was the largest among the recent workforce reductions in the US tech sector and the biggest for the Seattle-based company.
At the end of September, the group had 1.54 million employees worldwide.
In November, Meta — owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — announced a cut of 11,000 jobs, or some 13 per cent of staff, in what CEO Mark Zuckerberg called “the most difficult changes we’ve made in Meta’s history”.
Mr Zuckerberg told his 87,000-strong employees he had expected the boost in e-commerce and online activity during the pandemic to continue, but admitted he had been wrong.
Meta’s poor performance in 2022 sent its share price plummeting, as well as a sharp drop in sales and stagnation in its user numbers.
On January 18, Microsoft announced it would lay off 10,000 employees in the coming months.
The cuts were “in response to macroeconomic conditions and changing customer priorities”, the maker of the Windows operating system said in a US regulatory filing.
The plan followed two smaller rounds of lay-offs in 2022, one in July affecting less than one per cent of the workforce and a second in October targeting under 1000 people.
Microsoft, which went on a major hiring spree during the pandemic to meet a surge in demand for its software and cloud computing services, currently has 221,000 employees, including 122,000 in the United States, according to its website.
And just a week after his blockbuster takeover, Elon Musk sacked half of Twitter’s 7500-strong staff in November as part of his major overhaul of the troubled company.
Workers around the world were shown the door and took to Twitter to vent their frustration or disbelief and say goodbye to one of Silicon Valley’s most iconic companies.
The cull is part of Musk’s push to find ways to pay for the mammoth $US44 billion deal for which he took on billions of dollars in debt.
At the end of August, Snapchat’s parent company Snap let go about 20 per cent of its employees, around 1200 people, in a bid by the photo-centric messaging app to dig itself out amid competition and revenue woes.
While its user numbers continue to grow — 363 million daily users in October — it is saddled by diminishing profits and competition from other apps, such as TikTok.
— with AFP