As of this morning, I had been sent this podcast interview 27 times. The message that people derived from this headline was that it spelled trouble for Buoy, and workplace perks in general. But like a lot of articles and interviews these days, the headline can be deceiving. “You Company Could be Tricking You With Perks” suggests that workplace perks are A. a way for your employer to blind you to the awfulness of your job and B. genuinely valueless. While there are shades of truth in the first point, I disagree wholeheartedly with the second.
I believe that perks, when they have meaning and flow from company culture, are a powerful way to improve workplaces. Better said, they help create workplaces that don’t suck. I also believe that companies with bad leadership will at times deploy perks as a way to “trick” their employees into believing things are great. This won’t work. Employees see right through this, and they resent it. And they should. They should flee these companies this instant. At Buoy, we give these companies a wide berth. We are not a silver bullet solution, and we won’t work with companies who don’t have solid leaders that want the best for their people.
The opposite of this are companies like Basecamp. Jason Fried (Co-founder & CEO of Basecamp) has an awesome message: “we do perks because they’re the right thing to do.” I couldn’t agree more. If you’re a business owner, and you have the ability to improve the culture in your office with perks that bring people together, I firmly believe you have a responsibility to do so. That’s not to say: if you do perks, it’s ok to have bad managers who don’t convey the mission of the company to the team, because it’s not. It’s to say: if you have a solid company with good leaders and mission driven employees, perks can be an awesome expression of your culture; a way to bring your people together.
There is not a single person in the history of man who hasn’t liked a piece of fresh fruit in the office. Or a person who said “I really don’t like that they offer free yoga.” Do those things make people stay at a job or perform better? We think so, but we understand if others don’t. What can’t be argued, however, is that those are nicegestures by your employer. And if they’re doing them in an altruistic manner, they’re not expecting anything back. They just want to create a sense of community among their people in the place where they spend the majority of their lives.
We seek companies like Basecamp out. We want to make it easier for them to make their workplaces even better. We believe that if we’re able to help good companies with great missions make their people happier & more connected, they’ll grow fast and strong, and everyone will win. That, to me, is the power of perks.