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Do Developers Need Free Perks To Thrive? 524

Posted by timothy
from the man-does-not-live-by-free-bread-alone dept.
jammag writes "Free sodas, candy and energy bars can be surprisingly important to developers, says longtime coder Eric Spiegel. They need the perks, not to mention the caffeine boost. More important, free sodas from management are like the canary in the coal mine. If they get cut, then layoffs might be next. 'The sodas are just the wake-up call. If the culture changes to be focused more on cost-cutting than on innovation and creativity, then would you still want to work here? I wouldn't.' Are free perks really that important?"
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Do Developers Need Free Perks To Thrive?

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  • rather have money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:07PM (#43784997) Journal
    I'd rather have a larger paycheck.
    • by royallthefourth (1564389) <royallthefourth@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:10PM (#43785043)

      While you're at it, ditch this "high deductible" scam and get some real health insurance

      • by OverlordQ (264228)

        It's not a scam, it depends on your own personal needs. Since I go to the doctor rarely, my premiums are next to nothing, and contributing to my HSA comes out of pre-tax money which lowers my taxable income. In my case, it'd be stupid not to.

        • Re:rather have money (Score:5, Informative)

          by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:25PM (#43785243)

          Just wait until you actually get sick. Then it will seem far less of a great deal.

          These plans are a scam, they are attempting to move the cost of healthcare onto the worker while still claiming to provide coverage. I would rather get no coverage and a raise so I can buy my own. Mind you that raise would need to be $1000+/month.

          • Re:rather have money (Score:5, Informative)

            by Drethon (1445051) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:30PM (#43785301)
            Near ten years as a software developer with no major medical bills (crossing fingers it continues). Don't remember the exact amount it saves me each paycheck but I think by this point I've covered the high deductible. All depends on where you are willing to gamble...
            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by h4rr4r (612664)

              A single illness can change that, or a single broken limb. Granted it depends on how high the deductible is and what your total out of pocket is. Never forget that many of these plans only pay 80% even after the deductible is reached until you have spent a good bit of change.

              • Re:rather have money (Score:4, Informative)

                by ttucker (2884057) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:50PM (#43785617)

                A single illness can change that, or a single broken limb. Granted it depends on how high the deductible is and what your total out of pocket is. Never forget that many of these plans only pay 80% even after the deductible is reached until you have spent a good bit of change.

                This is absolutely untrue, when you buy an HSA policy the deductible, co-insurance %, and out of pocket maximum (deductible + co-insurance) are clearly defined. My out of pocket maximum, for example, is $7,500, which is fairly standard for HSA insurance. Sure, I do not want to have to pay this, but the reality is that this will not ruin anyone financially. The only real difference is that I have to pay to go to the doctor instead of having a copay, but the reality is that a doctor visit only costs me about $75 dollars (instead of $45 copay before HSA insurance). Also note that with insurance having a copay, you continue paying it after you reach the deductible. (Ouch if you get cancer and need 10, $1000 copay MRIs.)

                If you really want to find *shitty* insurance, forget looking at the modest up front costs, and instead look at the yearly and lifetime coverage limits. This is where normal people meet financial ruin, because once the coverage runs out, you are stuck with the remaining hundreds of thousands of dollars of bills. These plans are sold and marketed to people that want the good feeling of insurance, but that are too stupid to see that they are not protected from a catastrophic event.

            • by egcagrac0 (1410377) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:37PM (#43785409)

              This is great, if you're a single male.

              Women and babies get to be expensive, I hear.

          • >Just wait until you actually get sick. Then it will seem far less of a great deal.

            No it won't. My HSA has amassed more than the deductible. The money I would have put into a low deductable plan has gone into the HSA, so it has cost me no more.

            The danger period is the first 6 months where you may not have amassed more than the deductible and so you may find yourself out of pocket for up to 6 months.

          • Re:rather have money (Score:5, Informative)

            by Spudley (171066) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:47PM (#43785551) Homepage Journal

            Just wait until you actually get sick. Then it will seem far less of a great deal.

            These plans are a scam, they are attempting to move the cost of healthcare onto the worker while still claiming to provide coverage. I would rather get no coverage and a raise so I can buy my own. Mind you that raise would need to be $1000+/month.

            Reading the above, I am *so* glad I live in a country with free healthcare for all.

            Sure, it's paid for by my taxes, and sure maybe that means my taxes are a bit higher than yours, but:

            1. If I lose my job and have no income, I'll still be covered.
            2. If I get sick and need expensive medical assistance, I won't be hit with higher premiums or be uninsurable for any conditions.
            3. If I'm in an accident and can't help myself my family won't need to dig through my files to find my insurance papers or pay up-front for anything.
            4. If I feel unwell, I can make a judgement about seeing a doctor based on how I feel, not on whether I can afford it.

            I honestly can't see how anyone who can make a sane argument against that.

            Yep, there are issues -- some people do abuse the system -- but I'd rather have that than the alternatives any day of the week.

            • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:57PM (#43785769)

              People cannot make a sane argument against it.

              They will however make greedy short sighted childish arguments against it.

            • by Nemyst (1383049) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:06PM (#43785911) Homepage
              But but but I'm healthy I don't need it! Screw those leeches why would *I* pay for THEIR problems? This is all commie bullshit and you know it.

              (sarcasm intended, if it wasn't already bloody obvious)
            • by robl (53384) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @06:14PM (#43787957)

              That's also the reason that startups are usually run by people in their 20's. Once you get above 40, life changes a bit, you begin to worry about heart attacks, prostate cancer and the like, and actually rely upon good medical insurance given by a company.

              You need at least $250k in the bank if you have a heart attack and have no insurance. A 20-something doesn't worry about that.

              Imagine if the US gets single payer healthcare. Startups won't be for just the 20-somethings anymore.

      • by mwvdlee (775178)

        Just get health insurance with a lower deductible. You live in a free country, right?

      • by Firethorn (177587)

        get some real health insurance

        Do you mean a 'real healthcare program'? Because a proper 'high deductible' plan is closer to actually being insurance(IE something you're not supposed to use all the time) than most health care plans offered today.

        For example, my dad's HDIP* actually saved him oodles of money when he got cancer. Why? Once he hit the deductible he was covered 100%, and not responsible for $40 copays, $40 per visit, etc... A traditional 'low' deductible plan would have bled him more financially over the course of that.

        Pl

      • Re:rather have money (Score:5, Informative)

        by tompaulco (629533) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:15PM (#43786059) Homepage Journal

        While you're at it, ditch this "high deductible" scam and get some real health insurance

        Health Plans are a scam. "High Deductible" is actually insurance. They had to give it a new name because hardly anybody provides insurance anymore, just health plans, so people have forgotten the true meaning of insurance.

      • Re:rather have money (Score:5, Informative)

        by pwizard2 (920421) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:15PM (#43786065)
        I wish we could have single-payer health services like every civilized country on earth. But no, there's too much money to be made so we're stuck with this fucked up for-profit system that provides less care at a higher cost than any of the alternatives.
    • by BasilBrush (643681) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:12PM (#43785057)

      Cutting the sodas isn't going to make much difference to your paycheck.

      It has a fair chance of lowering morale though.

      • by sosume (680416)

        Not for me. I rather buy my own favorite drink than having the choice between coke, diet coke, coke zero, sprite and soda water, and with that the occasional mention that the company provides 'all that' for you, one of their prized assets. Which feels similar to receiving a fumbled fiver after spending three hours to fix someone's computer problems.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Hadlock (143607)

          If you figure out who at your office does the perks purchasing, a birthday card and a phone call can go a long ways towards upgrading you from folgers to starbucks coffee grinds and generic to fanta brand orange soda, etc.

        • Ask for the beverage you want. It's supposed to be there as a perk, not something they have to supply through gritted teeth. If they don't want to supply the beverage you want, well that's almost as much of a signal as removing them altogether.

      • Cutting fizzy sugar water may make a difference to one's waistline, perhaps.

    • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:12PM (#43785069)

      I'd rather have a larger paycheck.

      But in practice, a company that refuses to provide perks to developers is likely to pay them less, not more. Theoretically it could happen differently, but that's not the way to bet.

    • by jeffmeden (135043)

      I'd rather have a larger paycheck.

      I would take the 25c/day pay cut it would cost to have someone stock the fridge with sodas so that I didn't have to go to the bother. On one hand "perks" are about employers differentiating without paying more, on the other hand there are economies of scale that do your employees a lot of good, if you pick the things that a good portion of your employees partake in. Free coffee/tea is pretty standard for this reason, why shouldn't that apply to other (more modern) common consumables?

      Of course, don't let yo

      • Of course, don't let your company health care provider hear that you have a fridge of 240-calorie insulin-bombs stalking the corridor...

        Then mention in passing to the insurer that Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Sprite Zero, Diet Mtn Dew, Pepsi Max, and Dr Pepper Ten aren't exactly "insulin bombs".

    • by BetterSense (1398915) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:20PM (#43785163)
      That's the good thing about "money"...it solves the coincidence-of-wants problem, which is why people prefer to be paid in money instead of perks. However, with the government standing in the middle between your and your employer, you will never get a larger paycheck equal to the perks. Giving you the perks is more tax-efficient than paying you enough to buy the perks yourself.

      Spending $30/(month*employee) on candy bars can simply be written off as an expense. If the company wanted to pay the employees enough to buy their own candy bars, they would actually have to pay all their people $50/(mo*employee) or so that they have $30 left after income tax. And you won't get a group rate on candy.

      All things being equal, perks are a better value. Hope you like going to the gym that your employer uses for its gym membership program, hope you enjoy the coffee they buy, the healthcare plan that they offer, and the groceries at the company store (not quite, but we are getting there).
      • However, with the government standing in the middle between your and your employer, you will never get a larger paycheck equal to the perks.

        It's not just that, but the company is getting them in bulk at wholesale. Whilst individuals could do that, most won't and they'll pay retail. Then add the fact that the company is supplying a fridge and doing the stocking for you for convenience.

        Even if it were an either perks OR the money situation the perks would make more sense. But it tends not to be. Employers that value their employees enough to give them the perks tend to pay more.

      • by Synerg1y (2169962)

        You're right that it's more cost efficient for the employer to do so. There's 2 major hindarences that prevent a lot of these perks from ever being fully implemented and that's people's different likes/dislikes... and people coming and going, while in 2011 you may have a culture that loves soda and candy, over time you may wind up hiring a bunch of health nuts of equal or greater skill and suddenly your perks work against you. With a dynamic and competent HR it's possible to shift with the winds... but ha

    • Re:rather have money (Score:5, Informative)

      by istartedi (132515) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:44PM (#43785497) Journal

      Most perks wouldn't make a huge impact on your pay. Take the coffee, soda and snack budget. Spread it out over all the employees and you get... what? Not very much. Now without the coffe, etc. right there in the office, what do you do? Go to the same boring shop on the first floor of the building every day? Get in your car and drive or (if you're lucky) walk someplace and buy snacks at retail prices. You're right back to square one. You saved nothing. The company lost. You lost. Everybody lost. Penny-wise and pound foolish.

    • by SleazyRidr (1563649) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:48PM (#43785559)

      For the price of free soda your paycheque may go up but a dollar a week. Once you take into account the overheads it's a lot more cost effective to just give someone soda. (Please no-one interperet that as big-government making it too expensive to employ people.)

      Also, money is nice, but I place a high value on a nice place to work. I spend over half my waking hours at work, getting a soda and a cookie isn't much but it makes me feel a lot better about coming.

    • by Rob the Bold (788862) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:02PM (#43785847)

      I'd rather have a larger paycheck.

      I'd rather have a jet pack. But if the boss is cutting the free soda, we're both gonna be disappointed.

    • Personally, I'd rather have more healthy snacks like fresh fruits and nuts.

      But either way, if upper management takes away free sodas (without the CEO having to make a similar sacrifice like giving up his corporate jet, or giving up his bonus), upper management and HR better brace themselves for an internal email shit storm that could take down its internal network for a couple of days, if not for a couple weeks, and that could potentially cost the company millions of dollars in loss of productivity and loss

  • by xevioso (598654) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:07PM (#43785005)

    ...that something could be amiss. That said, quite often the perks come right back when the company does better.

    It's not just coders that like free perks...project managers, HR people, and the people who run the business like them as well.

  • by OverlordQ (264228) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:12PM (#43785063) Journal

    Yes, while having these perks is nice, the narrative in this story makes the guy sound like an entitled twat.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:12PM (#43785065)

    Creating a supportive and productive environment isn't just something restricted to businesses employing software developers, it's just the only industry left that actually gives even the slightest bit of a thought to the happiness of its employees.

  • It's all BS. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by scorp1us (235526) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:16PM (#43785111) Journal

    I've been in software development for 15 years now and I never had any of the stuff provided. And I'm glad they didn't. I'd be a fat turd now with diabetes. And the caffeine rush only lasts for about 15 minutes. So it's a myth. You'd be better off putting the money towards better tools, or a in-house better tools program (unassigned work time) so developers can pursue pet projects.

    • by Drethon (1445051)
      Caffeine seems to last longer to me but then I could take four hours to finish a 20 ounce pop. Though since I stopped drinking caffeinated pop I don't feel tired in the afternoons. Though after I cut back on pop I started getting more cavities... go figure.
    • by T.E.D. (34228)

      This was my comment exactly, except I've been doing this for 25 years rather than 15.

      There was that one time my former (military contractor) employer got it in their collective heads that they'd start a commercial group. They got a lucrative deal for "technology transfer" from Intel, and got it in their heads that they could become a player in the commercial PC graphics market. However, they knew nothing much about the commercial world, so they just slavishly aped all the steriotypes about hip commercial

  • by Tony Isaac (1301187) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:18PM (#43785131) Homepage

    It's not the free drinks or candy, although those things are nice. What developers want is to feel like they matter to the company. One of the ways a company can do that is to provide some small freebies. But freebies alone don't cut it.

    • by fermion (181285)
      It is said that the women who rolled the cigars in Cuba were supplied with readers. These readers would entertain them with lectures and the like. I suppose it made them more efficient at rolling cigars.
    • by houghi (78078)

      You make it sound as if developers were like everybody else.

      Or perhaps the article made it sound as if developers are somehow different from anybody else.

    • by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:13PM (#43786029) Homepage

      I think this is a more appropriate way of looking at things. If you want to keep valuable employees happy, it helps to show them that they're appreciated. That might mean giving them free candy and soda, but there are many other options. It might mean that you let them leave a little early or have an extra day off. It might mean that you give them a more flexible schedule or let them work from home. It might mean that you give them more interesting and more challenging projects. It might mean that you make a point to say "Thank you. Job well done."

      The ways of showing people that they're important and appreciated are varied, and part of how you show someone that you appreciate them is by bothering to figure out what makes them feel appreciated.

      Soda and candy? That wouldn't make me feel appreciated, and I wouldn't worry about a company that cut those. I'd be more concerned about a company that treats its employees badly but hopes to buy them off with soda and candy.

  • If the pay is good then the extra perks offered are optionally consumed. Just because it's free doesn't mean you have to eat/drink it. I would rather drink water with a small amount of Mio added for flavor (I can't stand plain water). The primary perk(s) I want, being able to dress casually every day (shorts if I want) and listening to music without headphones.

    BTW My company use to offer free soda but due to stupid employees opening cans then leaving them all over the office, soda is now 25 cents/can. P

  • by adisakp (705706) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:19PM (#43785155) Journal
    I have a number of coworkers who basically don't function until their second cup of coffee in the morning. Providing coffee, tea, and soda is a no-brainer for increased productivity.

    FWIW, most "free food" programs encourage workers to come in earlier (for breakfast) or stay later (work past dinner time) or to not spend a long time off the company property over lunch. The extra time at work usually pays for the food costs. When we have "crunch time" and are working late, my company orders food for people putting in extra hours. It's probably cheaper than overtime as well.
  • R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CityZen (464761) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:21PM (#43785177) Homepage

    Aretha Franklin knows what we need.

    • Are you saying Aretha Franklin thinks we need a Really Excellent Soul Performer Eliciting Catchy Tunes? Cause I'd prefer that over soda to get me moving at work!
  • by Karmashock (2415832) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:21PM (#43785187)

    However, if you're dealing with really top talent people like to be in a nice work environment.

    This isn't exclusive to developers. You see this in business management. Corporate headquarters are often very nice buildings. Senior management gets lots of perks.

    The free sodas developers get is trickle down of that. Its not a free private jet. Its a cheap machine the company can maintain in your recreation room. If they company is so strapped for cash that they're scrapping that then yeah... layoffs are very likely.

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:22PM (#43785199)

    The perks themselves may not be that important to many employees. What matters is that the existence of the perks sends a message: that the company values its employees and is willing to put some amount of effort into retaining them. As the original article pointed out, if a company isn't willing to spend a few bucks on free food and drinks that the employees value, how long will it be until the work environment deteriorates in other ways?

    Things are different if you work for a nonprofit and/or government agency where there is less discretionary income. You know what you're getting into. But a for-profit company has the choice. If they cut out minor perks like free soda, they're saying that they are willing to piss off their employees to add a few bucks to the bottom line. Either that, or they really are on the verge of bankruptcy – and in both cases it's a good idea to be looking for the exits.

    • by DingerX (847589) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:40PM (#43785437) Journal
      It's a fundamental aspect of human psychology. If the owner of the house you're in provides something for free, then you have a host-guest relationship. If not, then you have a mercenary one. This holds from airlines to assembly lines. Guess which approach is more effective at getting people to do what you want?
    • by 0racle (667029)
      A company stressing the perks they give does not send the message 'the company values its employees' it tells me the company has decided to attempt to try and wow you with the cheapest things it can get a hold of in lieu of actually doing anything for it's employees (read: raises). It looks like the company is treating you like a little child, that they expect you to be happy because they gave you a shiny object.
  • The best perk (Score:5, Interesting)

    by spaceyhackerlady (462530) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:24PM (#43785215)

    The best perk for me has always been interesting work in a congenial environment. Everything else is secondary. It helps to be a senior person, so my tasks are usually along the lines of "Figure out $newtechnology. Find a way for the company to make money with it."

    I've worked for a number of companies who did the "we pay less but we're such a great place to work!" thing. Someday I'd like to at least visit a "we pay lots but it sucks to work here" company, just to see what it's like.

    ...laura

  • Caffeine and Time (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:25PM (#43785249)

    It's not just the caffeine that benefits the company by stimulating workers, but also that you don't have staff doing daily coffee runs for a half hour.

  • by Murdoch5 (1563847) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:27PM (#43785265)
    Is to let the developers work and have fun. Don't stand over them demanding strict and tight control, the more fun you make the job the better it will get done.
  • What? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    As someone who doesn't want diabetes or to become overweight, I would prefer healthy food. I'm sick of the "candy, fast food, pizza" atmosphere in IT. I feel like a lot of companies who buy their employees food tend to focus solely on those which are bad for our health.

  • There is too much blood in my caffeine system. We brew starbucks and Seattle's best in the kitchen. Lemme run and get my afternoon fix.
  • by Joe Tie. (567096) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:33PM (#43785333)
    The majority of places I've worked that really put effort into keeping a stocked kitchen do so for pretty manipulative reasons. They plan on absurd amounts of overtime or even unpaid hours and know that people are going to be less inclined to agree if their body is screaming for dinner.
  • by unfortunateson (527551) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:35PM (#43785371) Journal

    1) A decent ergonomic chair that works for people 2 meters tall
    2) A door
    3) A manager who will
          a) go to the meetings on my behalf and send me the 3-line email with the one detail that I needed to be there for
          b) find interesting work for me to do
    4) A bonus program that has clear, achievable objectives that pay out at least something if I beat my goals -- don't pull the rug out from under my feet if I've been slaving, just because Sales can't get in the door

    • 1) A decent ergonomic chair that works for people 2 meters tall 2) A door 3) A manager who will a) go to the meetings on my behalf and send me the 3-line email with the one detail that I needed to be there for b) find interesting work for me to do 4) A bonus program that has clear, achievable objectives that pay out at least something if I beat my goals -- don't pull the rug out from under my feet if I've been slaving, just because Sales can't get in the door

      A place with all that probably has the free soda and snacks, too.

  • Not trying to be an ass here, but Eric Spiegel's self-agrandizing "columns" have been discussed on Slashdot before. Based on his past writings, he seems to think it's ok to treat people like cattle. (Give the cows a salt lick, they'll feel better. Give the developers their carbonated sugar water, they'll feel better.) He also doesn't miss an opportunity to point out how smart he thinks his decisions are, and his writings have an "I told you so" undertone. I can't help but get the feeling that he writes to h

  • by Spazmania (174582) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:36PM (#43785397) Homepage

    One of the worst places I've worked had a well stocked break room. Sodas, chips, ice cream, everything short of a full meal. They patted themselves on the back about how well they treated their employees. And failed to treat them well in the areas that matter.

    • by danlip (737336)

      I agree it's just one of many factors, and I've worked for bad companies with good freebies. But the well-stocked breakroom costs them so little money compared to everything else that when they do cut that cost it is a bad sign, i.e. the "canary in the coal mine" reference in the summary is accurate. I've seen it happen.

  • It's nice to be able to hit the gym and/or bike into work. I've been lucky enough to work for a couple of companies that have showers, and it's a perk I'd hate to go without.
  • by mbaGeek (1219224) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:42PM (#43785465) Homepage

    the head of NCR (way back in the first half of the 20th century) was asked about the generous "fringe benefits" the company provided (including a golf course). He pointed out that employees were move productive when provided with the benefits. In his opinion NCR wasn't "giving away" anything, just doing what was best for the company.

    any "perks" (like free soda) only increase productivity if the employee is happy with their base compensation. If someone thinks they are drastically underpaid/unvalued then no amount of freebies will matter

    if someone feels like they are valued and doing important work - then they will be more productive/loyal

    my guess is that the return on investment for free soda/coffee (in increased productivity) is extremely high - but it isn't about the soda

    There is actually quite a bit of research on this type of thing - I'd recommend "Drive" by Daniel Pink and "Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely (he just did a coursera class as well) for anyone interested ...

  • by Above (100351) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @03:45PM (#43785513)

    I do believe it is a canary in a coal mine. I'm amazed at companies that will have no problem spending $125,000 in salary on a high end programmer, which is probably $150,000 with benefits and all that but if they want a second monitor for $400 it's a big no-can-do. Soda/tea/coffee is $0.10-$0.30 a serving, even if someone were a major drinker at 5 servings a day of the expensive stuff that's $375/person/year, or about the same cost. Gives you an idea of what they are willing to spend on a happy, productive employee.

    People don't need a lot to be happy, but basic respect and curtesy go a long way. If you went to someone's house to visit them one of the first things they are likely to offer is some sort of beverage. It's basic hospitality. And the company isn't just inviting the employees into their environment, but what about vendors, partners, or customers come to visit? There should be something to offer to them.

    Lots of management types are under the impression that getting a paycheck is what makes people happy. It's a false logic, just because not getting a paycheck makes people unhappy doesn't mean it works the other way around.

    • Yeah, there's this nice video, RSA Animate:Drive, [youtube.com] about what actually motivates knowledge workers. I find it insightful and it helped me focus on being a better happier developer rather than chasing a bigger paycheck.

    • I fully agree with you on this. It is not the soda, "There is no soda", it is respect. One startup I worked for had a we're-all-in-it-together attitude where we happily tolerated crap computers/desks/office etc. But as success came along the owner just kept taking every perk possible. I quit when he asked me to bring him and a client coffee. (I cleaned out my desk and left).
  • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:10PM (#43785959) Homepage Journal

    One company I worked for not only didn't provide coffee and drinks, they didn't provide coffee machines or drink dispenser machines. Even worse, they forbid coffee machines at the desk.

    Not because of power supply issues, no.

    Because they gave the cafeteria company an exclusive contract to supply beverages to the entire staff.

    So instead of having coffee clubs like I did at most places I worked over the years, I was expected to pay nearly $2 for a sixteen ounce shitty cafeteria coffee. And I wasn't supposed to have them any time except 10, 12, and 2.

    I quit.

  • The problem I see here is a narrow idea of what a 'perk' can be.

    Typically office environments are over regulated, and antagonistic managers use things humans *naturally need*...random breaks, flexible hours, snack food, wearing hawaiian shirts, etc. and turn them into a *commodity for you to earn.*

    Its part of the archaic business model we all struggle against.

    As a former employee, I'd definitely take the *cash* over gamed-out 'perks'...

    However, as a current employer, I'd like to defend the idea of a 'perk' from those who despise the notion....

    See, businesses have **economy of scale**

    We can buy things in bulk...including things our employees wouldn't otherwise be able to afford on their own.

    To me, as a business owner, THIS is a perk....a non-compensatory benefit that you get b/c you work for me.

    Food, drinks, etc. are all in this category, but that's really minor league perks. If a division leader has a budget for stuff to help employee morale, a wise use of it would maximize the economy of scale and wholesale access...not just get a discount on pizza (although that's nice too sometimes)

    ex: when I was a snowboarding instructor, one of our 'perks' was that the managers would let us buy as much as we wanted off of their 'pro form' from their corporate sponsors. Which means snowboarding gear at 50% of *wholesale*....that was a fskign 'perk'...and it helped our performance as employees!

    Most biz perks are just gaming out your needs and using it as a carrot/stick...

  • by Wokan (14062) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:18PM (#43786115) Journal

    I stopped drinking soda many months back, but I see such perks as signs of a company's financial health, just like the OP suggests.

  • by Darkness404 (1287218) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @04:35PM (#43786405)
    In the end, its all about quality of life.

    Would I be willing to take a lower-paying job that I really loved when compared to a higher-paying job that I dreaded going to? Yes.

    Having a flexible work environment is something that would keep me working for less of a paycheck and still be happy. On the other hand, a very restrictive work environment I'm really not going to like so I better have good pay.

    "Free perks" do not mean that developers thrive, but a relaxed work environment (that costs next to nothing!) helps developers thrive. Flexible hours and a relaxed dress code (T-shirt, shorts and flip flops should be ok) cost nothing to implement but yet can really help tech-minded people thrive. The thing is, managers who understand how the "techie mind" work generally tend to go a bit overboard and include a bunch of other stuff too, which does help, but not to the same degree.

    Bottom line, if you expect your IT people and developers to come in wearing suits from 9-5 and be "productive" for all those hours sitting quietly in a cubicle, you're going to have to pay your tech people a lot. On the other hand, if you can make going to work feel more like a hobby, more relaxed and more interesting, you can find people who will work for you for less.
  • 100% dental (Score:5, Interesting)

    by EmperorOfCanada (1332175) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 @05:53PM (#43787679) Homepage
    I worked for a company where we had 100% dental for just about any procedure; it was awesome. Our company was purchased by a stodgy company run by 60 year old suits so I quit. Weeks later the first thing to go was the 100% dental. Two years later 95% of the staff were gone with only the most useless paper pushers remaining; basically people who couldn't move on.

    What I have discovered with programmers is that the good ones are quite smart and don't take much crap. So a clear and fair salary system that is open works far better than the pretending that nobody blabs their and any other salaries that they know. If you want to quickly empty out a room of your best programmers reveal that some useless stump of a manger earns 3 times as much and blew at least one of their salaries on travel.

    Or if you want them to quit after a few weeks of seething then just do a nepotism hire and put him in charge of "code reviews".

    The key is not so much that perks make or break an environment but that they indicate a respect for the programmers. Often programmers are somewhat trapped in the office while the marketing and management get to travel and wine and dine clients. Thus throwing them some bones such as food and conference travel balances out the equation. But once management starts to act like the programmers are a bunch of undeserving brats it is game over.

    One company that I particularly enjoyed quitting from would have the upper management basically give customer tours of the programmers like we were a zoo exhibit.

    The best part of when they cut a perk and lose programmers is how many of the management seem to think that the pathetic losers quit because they took away the free drinks or some such. Then they get angry when they realize how development has screeched to a halt when the only 3 competent programmers just took off. I have even heard accusations of sabotage.

Hacking's just another word for nothing left to kludge.

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