Google does it. So does Facebook and Twitter. Are free snacks and drinks making our workplaces better—or more fattening?
A couple of centuries ago, women were taught the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. In today’s world this dating advice seems overtly old-fashioned, but the theory could partially hold true for companies wanting to retain employees.
According to a recent WorkSphere survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the staffing agency Spherion, if you want a happy worker, then feed them. Around 30% of respondents said the availability of food throughout the day contributes to their workplace happiness.
Whether you offer free cookies in the break room, doughnuts at meetings, or—following the lead of Google, Facebook, and Twitter—provide full-blown meals prepared by a company chef, smart companies should give the idea some thought, but understand that free food doesn’t necessarily equal a more productive staff. It’s more complicated than that, say experts.
“With examples like Google, we’re constantly reminded of the chicken-or-the-egg dilemma,” says Frank Bosco, assistant professor of management in the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Business in Richmond, Virginia. “That is—is Google successful because they offer all sorts of perks, resulting in better-performing employees? Or, do they offer free food because they’ve been so successful over the years?”
I’ve always thought like perks like this were just thinly veiled ways to increase productivity or make you overlook how much time you’re really spending at the office. Free meals, dry cleaning services, childcare solutions etc. because you’re going be putting so much time in that you’re not going to be able to tend to “life.” I know that sounds pessimistic, but in actuality, it’s just smart. It means that if you are in a busy job, in the free time you do have, you can do the things you enjoy, which will ultimately lead to happier employees. In my case those things include: building Legos with my girls, running around the park, reading on my Kindle or watching Netflix with a glass of wine, and doing laundry (I’m kidding on that last one).