Companies that are considered “cool” employers provide all manner of sidebar benefits that the typical mainstream, old-line companies do not. Free lunches, coffee machines that spit out lattes and cappuccinos all day, first-class exercise facilities, dry cleaning services, concierges to run errands, and a host of others. You wonder whether someone is employed to come up with ideas for new benefits that others don’t have. At the very least, there must be a rivalry in Silicon Valley, where many of the companies are located and the atmosphere is suffused with competition, to come up with the latest time-saving or comfort-enhancing device.
As others have pointed out, convenient as they may be, these amenities are meant to remove barriers to working. You no longer have to leave work early enough to pick up your dry cleaning. Are you worried about what you are going to make for supper if you put in an extra hour at work? No problem, just stop by the company cafeteria to pick up your pre-cooked, modestly-priced culinary solution.
I love the thought that so many mundane features of existence can be obliterated so that I can keep working. Under the dictum that a company cannot be excellent at everything and why would it want to try, companies have outsourced tasks that are peripheral to their main money-making activity. At a strategic level, for example, companies like Nike, Adidas, and Reebok farm out the manufacturing of their products to factories in countries where the costs of production are much lower than in the U.S. or Europe.
In retrospect, it seems inevitable that a principle applied at the corporate level was going to filter down to employees. At the individual level, the logic is sound. Why spend valuable time running out to the local coffee shop, which may turn into a half-hour trip if there is a line, when you can walk over to a side counter, stick a cup under a spigot, and press a button? Multiply reduced time for coffee runs by the number of runners and you end up with considerable saved work time.
It also engenders goodwill. If an employee feels grateful for special treatment, he/she will want to respond in kind. He/she will come in on Saturday or Sunday without even being asked when his/her project is getting to a critical stage or is falling behind. The company’s success will be his/her success.
Some argue that young people entering the workforce today are used to being pampered. That’s a topic for another day. But the lucky ones must appreciate their jobs more when friends at other companies have to join a health club, for goodness sake, rather than going to the on-site gym.