Have Workplaces Become Too Much Fun?

October 8, 2014 - 5 minute read - Posted by

Onsite cafes, workplace massages, unlimited vacations, free drycleaning–that’s pretty much the norm for a lot of tech companies these days. Especially those in the startup world.

If you are new to the startup space, or if perks like these seem completely ridiculous, you might be asking why. Well, the logic behind it is pretty simple. We spend the majority of our life at work, so why not create an environment that makes this easier, and therefore makes our employees more productive? Make sense right?

Well, it depends who you ask. There is no definitive answer, but most of us will agree that creating a vibrant culture and incorporating play into work can help create productive and happy employees and reduce turnover.

What gets tricky however is when a workplace is no longer a place of work, but rather an environment for employees to hang out without consequences. With workplaces incorporating more fun and perks on the job, it’s becoming harder to tell a modern work environment apart from a frat house.

Have we gone to far with perks? Look at companies like Google, where despite creating an workplace oasis, employees still gripe about things online. Noisy massage chairs, and too much free food–sounds like a hard life at Google.

Whether you agree with outlandish employee perks or not, it’s a fine line between productivity and fun. If you aren’t sure which side you fall on ask yourself these questions:

Is your fun forced? Fun needs to be optional. Otherwise your coworkers will get annoyed and resent being taken away from their work. What one employee finds amusing may not work for the next, so don’t attempt to mandate anything.

Is it the only thing that makes your workplace great? Free beer on Fridays or pets in the workplace are lovely perks, but they probably aren’t the reason your company is great. Don’t lose sight of your core business. Your perks need to reflect your company values—not the other way around.

Are you confusing your perks with your company culture? Your perks are not the same thing as your culture. If you removed your ping pong table, would you still have a company culture? Hopefully yes!

Are employees still respecting management? Just because your CEO like to engage in occasional foosball games doesn’t mean he isn’t still serious about business. Even if your workplace is a holocratic environment, your employees still need to respect the leaders.

Is productivity taking a hit? It’s all fun and games until productivity dips. If you notice your team isn’t quite as productive as they should be, or that customer service has taken a nose-dive, it may be time to rethink how much time you devote to games in the office. Consider setting some boundaries and limitations to when and where fun and games happen.

Are you really attracting strong talent? One of the main reasons companies offer such great perks is to attract talent. Great, but you need to ensure the candidates aren’t more attracted to the perks than the actual work. Do you really want your next developer taking the job solely because you have free beer? Probably not.

Are your perks becoming expected? Maybe you started off with occasional snacks, but those quickly got eaten, and before you knew it you were having lunch catered five times a week. Make sure your employees understand that perks are a privilege, not a right.

Are you trying too hard to be something you aren’t? It’s easy to get envious at what companies like Google and Zappos are offering to their employees. But what works for them isn’t necessarily going to work for you. Find the right perks that reflect your culture and organization.

What perks do you offer in your workplace? And how has it affected your environment?


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