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Do Developers Need Free Perks To Thrive?

timothy posted about a year ago | from the man-does-not-live-by-free-bread-alone dept.

Businesses 524

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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524 comments

rather have money (5, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | about a year ago | (#43784997)

I'd rather have a larger paycheck.

Re:rather have money (5, Funny)

royallthefourth (1564389) | about a year ago | (#43785043)

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

Re:rather have money (2)

OverlordQ (264228) | about a year ago | (#43785121)

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 (4, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#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 (4, Informative)

Drethon (1445051) | about a year ago | (#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:rather have money (1, Informative)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43785319)

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 (1, Troll)

atriusofbricia (686672) | about a year ago | (#43785569)

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.

A high deductible plan is good if you're in reasonably good health and can plan and save like an adult. If on the other hand you want to make sure that others will take care of you then not so much.

There was once a time when health insurance was exactly that, insurance. It was there to cover those things that were beyond the average person's ability to pay in a reasonable period of time. Just like home and car insurance. Over time it's been morphed into something that's supposed to pay for everything from the sniffles to major heart surgery to mental issues and anything else people want. Then they're shocked when it costs a bloody fortune.

On top of that why does your employer owe you health insurance in the first place? That also used to be something that was a fringe benefit that people then started to expect and demand like it was owed to them.

Re:rather have money (5, Insightful)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about a year ago | (#43785409)

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

Women and babies get to be expensive, I hear.

Re:rather have money (0)

HornWumpus (783565) | about a year ago | (#43785363)

Does your car insurance cover oil changes? Is going in for a yearly visit more of a surprise then having to change your oil?

If you car insurance did cover oil changes, how much do you think that would increase your premium? (express the answer as a % of the cost of the oil changes).

Re:rather have money (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | about a year ago | (#43785369)

>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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785453)

For me -- my healthcare cost caps at $3,000.00 in a year I, or someone in my family, gets sick. After that it's 100% coverage and no limit. Seems like a good deal to me. Much better than a $6,000 out of pocket cap on the HMO.

Re:rather have money (5, Informative)

Spudley (171066) | about a year ago | (#43785551)

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.

Re:rather have money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785401)

When you're young and healthy, yeah its great.

The problem is that when you get older and stuff starts to break down, you have to luck out and be hired by an employer who provides health insurance for its employees or you're stuck with the "high deductible" plan paying high premiums. And the older you get, the less marketable you are so its a double whammy.

(Or if you're lucky, you land the right position/right company early on and upgrade/switch to the company health benefit plan when you get older. Then you get the benefit of saving money when you're young and being covered by your employer when you're older.)

The kicker is that corporate America has bought into "high deductible" plans scam so much so that we ended up with the current Medicare/Medicaid disaster. People simply didn't save enough money when they were younger to pay for the high premiums now that they're retired and elderly. So what do they do? Drop their high premiums health insurance, hope for the best and have taxpayers foot the bill when they end up in the emergency room.

And THATS if you don't get into an accident which forces you to retire early/come down with a medical condition which prevents you from working anymore.

Re:rather have money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785521)

Obesity and smoking have nothing to do with this whatsoever.

Re:rather have money (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#43785425)

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

Re:rather have money (1)

royallthefourth (1564389) | about a year ago | (#43785507)

We're talking about compensation in this comment thread. Welcome.

Re:rather have money (1)

danlip (737336) | about a year ago | (#43785535)

My last 2 employers have given me a choice of several plans, but the high-deductible plan was always the best deal. The premiums are so much lower that they make up for the deductible. Put the savings on the premium into a savings account and use it to pay the deductible. If you really do get sick enough to max out the deductible it will cost a little more (but not a lot) but otherwise you save a ton of money. Plus they cover 100% of preventative care, which the regular plans don't. The deductibles are 8-10k, which I can afford to pay out-of-pocket, but even if I couldn't most providers will setup a payment plan and you can pay it off over time with the savings from the premium. Maybe you have a crappy employer with no choices on the plan and a bad deal on the one they offer, but that has nothing to do with it being a high-deductible plan.

Re:rather have money (5, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#43785057)

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

It has a fair chance of lowering morale though.

Re:rather have money (1)

sosume (680416) | about a year ago | (#43785145)

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:rather have money (2, Insightful)

Hadlock (143607) | about a year ago | (#43785201)

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.

Re:rather have money (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#43785275)

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.

Re:rather have money (1)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about a year ago | (#43785433)

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

Re:rather have money (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#43785567)

Soda, diet soda, water, coffee, tea... You've got to drink something. Water coolers or bottles are pretty much always there if soda is provided.

Re:rather have money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785061)

Not me. Money is nice -- but it's not useful in the place I spend 85% of my waking time, which is withing the four walls of my office. As an attorney, (and former software engineer / designer) I miss the little perks that used to come with being in tech. I don't get anything from my firm but free coffee and all the tap water we can drink -- yay. When I'm here at 8 o'clock at night -- I would much prefer free soda (or a pizza) to an extra $100 in my bank account.

Re:rather have money (2)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about a year ago | (#43785113)

When I'm here at 8 o'clock at night -- I would much prefer free soda (or a pizza) to an extra $100 in my bank account.

With $100, I'm pretty sure you could order a pizza and lots of soda sent to your office, give a generous tip to the delivery guy, and still have quite a few bucks left in your bank account.

Re:rather have money (1)

AthanasiusKircher (1333179) | about a year ago | (#43785147)

(Btw, before anyone jumps all over this comment, I'm not against perks... I'm just saying the math doesn't work out here.)

Re:rather have money (5, Insightful)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#43785429)

Not everything is about Math. Employees will feel more rewarded by a company supplied meal than they would with the equivalent (or substantially more) cash. Especially if the boss has stayed and joins in the meal too.

Equally, pick the wrong perk and do it in the wrong way and it'll be a demotivation. I was once given an envelope of vouchers with the entire office gathered around as if I was employee of the month. Ack. I left that place soon after.

Re:rather have money (1)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about a year ago | (#43785493)

Because, of course people only work late once per pay period... (I'm not against math, I'm just saying the assumptions used in this scenario are not realistic.)

Re:rather have money (1)

icebike (68054) | about a year ago | (#43785323)

When I'm here at 8 o'clock at night -- I would much prefer free soda (or a pizza) to an extra $100 in my bank account.

With $100, I'm pretty sure you could order a pizza and lots of soda sent to your office, give a generous tip to the delivery guy, and still have quite a few bucks left in your bank account.

Depends on how many nights he is there till 8. If your typical pizza delivery is say $15 after all the tips, etc, and he ends up having to work
late two days a week, its soon better to get the pizza free.

The last big employer I worked for offered nothing for free. We had to chip in for the coffee fund.

But we did have our own fridge, with our own lock, and management never asked what was in there, and we carried out our own empties, so....

Re:rather have money (1)

Neil_Brown (1568845) | about a year ago | (#43785345)

With $100, I'm pretty sure you could order a pizza and lots of soda sent to your office

Two or three, maybe even four, times, perhaps — but if that's an extra $100 per year, or even per month, there would be a lot of days without the free pizza or soda?

Re:rather have money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785119)

I will bring you a pizza and a 24 pack of mountain dew for 100 bucks.

Re:rather have money (1)

GodInHell (258915) | about a year ago | (#43785485)

Three nights a week?

Re:rather have money (5, Insightful)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:rather have money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785095)

I agree. Fair (or better ;) ) compensation first, decent working conditions second. If after providing all this the employer still has some free money - then they can spend some trying to score some extra loyalty points - by providing these perks. Some employers jump straight to the item #3, maybe because it is cheaper :)

Re:rather have money (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | about a year ago | (#43785103)

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 your company health care provider hear that you have a fridge of 240-calorie insulin-bombs stalking the corridor...

Diet sodas (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year ago | (#43785421)

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".

Re:rather have money (4, Insightful)

BetterSense (1398915) | about a year ago | (#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).

Re:rather have money (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785217)

Plus they buy/pay for stuff in bulk as opposed to each employee buying small amounts.

Re:rather have money (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#43785337)

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.

Re:rather have money (1)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about a year ago | (#43785399)

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. competent HR.

Re:rather have money (1)

stillpixel (1575443) | about a year ago | (#43785357)

Sodas, pop, 'Coke' are dirt cheap when bought in bulk.. how else can fast food places give free refills and cheap buckets of the stuff.

I think perks like that really do help company morale. My current employer has a Keurig in the kitchen at every office and stocks up on a variety of k-cups. Those who like coffee (the majority) love it. I dig the hot chocolate myself.

It's one of the cheapest ways to boost morale and give employees something they can use while at work.

Re:rather have money (1)

Mirar (264502) | about a year ago | (#43785367)

Wait, what?

You rather have say $100 more a year than free soda, free snacks, access to training facilities, etc?

How much more wages would you like to have to bring your own computer and chair and be without the air condition and free parking?

Re:rather have money (4, Informative)

istartedi (132515) | about a year ago | (#43785497)

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.

Re:rather have money (4, Insightful)

SleazyRidr (1563649) | about a year ago | (#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.

It's definitely a sign (5, Insightful)

xevioso (598654) | about a year ago | (#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.

Short answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785027)

YES

it's all bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785031)

Just pay more than your competition

Free trip to the hospital, more like (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785033)

Free soda, candy = free diabetes
Free caffeine = free hypertension & stomach disorders

Screw that garbage; give me sane work life balance. Burning the midnight oil coding is fun; I was young once too. After a while, though, your body just won't take as much abuse as it used to.

Re:Free trip to the hospital, more like (2)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43785125)

That's more or less my thought. This is one of the few industries where the boss is expected to directly provide the snacks during the day.

As much as I am in favor of the employer taking care of the employees, that isn't what's going on here. And as you mention, in the long run it tends to exact a toll on the body. If the industry wants better work, it might make more sense to provide things that improve the work life balance and make it easier to stay for the long term.

Re:Free trip to the hospital, more like (1)

Deltaspectre (796409) | about a year ago | (#43785373)

Then why not offer healthy snacks? I certainly wouldn't say no.

No perks not always bad (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785037)

I used to work for a well-known company that had no perks except a very modest employee discount and was laser-focused on controlling costs. I used to joke that they probably had a profit target for the vending machines. Guess what? I didn't give a shit because business was great, therefore stock was going up and that provided me with a nice 50% income boost every year.

Re:No perks not always bad (1)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year ago | (#43785089)

I used to work for a well-known company that had no perks except a very modest employee discount and was laser-focused on controlling costs. I used to joke that they probably had a profit target for the vending machines. Guess what? I didn't give a shit because business was great, therefore stock was going up and that provided me with a nice 50% income boost every year.

How would you have felt if you didn't have the stock options? Many employees hired later on may not have.

Re:No perks not always bad (4, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | about a year ago | (#43785151)

Options are a poor way of compensating employees. Just ask all the MS employees whose options are effectively worthless because the strike price is inappropriate for what the stock price will ever be. A better strategy would be to just do proper profit sharing or give them actual shares in the company.

Re:No perks not always bad (0)

mwvdlee (775178) | about a year ago | (#43785459)

Facebook options weren't worthless.
Why else did it cause legal battles when they were watered down by the company?
</sarcasm>

Wait, wut? (0)

Old VMS Junkie (739626) | about a year ago | (#43785047)

Of course. Duh.

Good Idea, Bad Execution (3, Insightful)

OverlordQ (264228) | about a year ago | (#43785063)

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

The fact they're considered a "perk" is telling (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#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.

LOL (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785087)

>Shaun was the lone health nut on our team and therefor was taking the changes in stride. “You people should be thanking Cheryl. You’ll have less unpleasant trips to the dentist.”

I didn't know it was a necessity that trips to the dentist had to be unpleasant. I've had some that actually were pleasant. Seems the health nut might just have rotten teeth. Sorry bud.

It's all BS. (4, Interesting)

scorp1us (235526) | about a year ago | (#43785111)

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.

Re:It's all BS. (1)

Drethon (1445051) | about a year ago | (#43785325)

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.

Re:It's all BS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785435)

It's 2013 - who the hell gets cavities anymore?

Being treated like they matter (5, Insightful)

Tony Isaac (1301187) | about a year ago | (#43785131)

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.

Re:Being treated like they matter (2)

fermion (181285) | about a year ago | (#43785377)

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.

Re:Being treated like they matter (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about a year ago | (#43785533)

It's not past tense. The readers are still there.

Re:Being treated like they matter (1)

houghi (78078) | about a year ago | (#43785471)

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.

Depends (1)

Krojack (575051) | about a year ago | (#43785137)

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. Personally I would raise it to 50 cents but then again I rarely drink it so I don't care.

Caffeine Yes... other perks maybe... (2)

adisakp (705706) | about a year ago | (#43785155)

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.

Re:Caffeine Yes... other perks maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785405)

> I have a number of coworkers who basically don't function until their second cup of coffee in the morning.

That's a sign of caffeine addiction. If they stopped drinking coffee, they would be more awake after a week or two.

Re:Caffeine Yes... other perks maybe... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785469)

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.

Can't function until a second cup of coffee? Ending that addiction is a no-brainer for increased productivity, physical and mental health. Coffee is a useful drug, but that level of addiction is a serious problem.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. (5, Insightful)

CityZen (464761) | about a year ago | (#43785177)

Aretha Franklin knows what we need.

I wish I had that problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785179)

I wish my problem was whether or not my employer had free sodas.

Now Sue’s frowned. “Ok, now you need to take a step back. Not only do you have a job, but a well-paying job.

That about sums it up.

After reading that "article", I could honestly say that I couldn't hold it against an employer who wanted to hire H1-Bs so they wouldn't have to put up with entitlement bullshit.

I'd be happy to have that job and pay for my own whatever.

Obviously you'd like to get paid more (2)

Karmashock (2415832) | about a year ago | (#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.

huh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785189)

I kind of feel like this is a complete crock. Do all environments have foosball, nerf guns and bags of doritos hanging out for consumption? Uh, no. I couldn't care less about free snacks and a "dotcom atmosphere". Most important things are not to let superficial requests get in the way of a decent process, building a decent process to begin with and having a decent team (er, to precede "begin with"...). If you *need* that shit to feel like you have a decent environment, good luck 20 years later. Sure, you could argue that free snacks help build team morale. Personally, I'd say that was bogus crap masquerading as perks.

"Hey, we gave you caffeine, sugar and salt - can't you just code the damn thing even though we jammed a lot of last minute shit in the project plan?"

Had that several times (1)

kanwisch (202654) | about a year ago | (#43785193)

At one shop, when it was taken away, it was done as the company transitioned from being a private, all-engineers company to a corporate entity run by bean counters. Short-sighted as there were quite a few leaving as a result in the slash-and-burn of culture from trust to thumbscrews.

Last place I was at had pop, mostly for customers. I always found it directly at odds with the regular drum beat of people losing weight and staying in shape to keep health costs under control.

The signaling aspect is more important (5, Insightful)

JDG1980 (2438906) | about a year ago | (#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.

Re:The signaling aspect is more important (4, Insightful)

DingerX (847589) | about a year ago | (#43785437)

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?

The best perk (5, Interesting)

spaceyhackerlady (462530) | about a year ago | (#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

HR doesn't care (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785221)

HR doesn't care. Deep down in their psyches they long for a return to slavery and not paying any wages at all. They long for an institution like the one instituted by Al Gore that allows them to bill people for breathable air.

I think this is part of the natural life-cycle and apoptosis of a company. Some big ones are slower in their motions, but it is the same underlying drives and destinations.

I really liked "the innovators extinction" as a commentary on the unintended consequences of such changes an policies on the health and profitability of companies.

Caffeine and Time (3, Insightful)

ScottCooperDotNet (929575) | about a year ago | (#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.

hello diabetes (0)

lililalancia (752496) | about a year ago | (#43785261)

aye, too much sugar and welcome diabetes

Biggest Perk (2)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#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.

IT World (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785269)

This stank of an IT World piece, but it wasn't. I guess it just stinks.

What? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785271)

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.

Yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785273)

Yes.

I prefer tea or coffee (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785307)

At my place of employment, we provide our own caffeine fixes, and have rotation on who buys the filters, coffee/teabags, and the creamer.

Our boss supplied us with the coffee maker, and the breakroom fridge. (Where we store the iced tea)

Soda can be a surprisingly expensive vice, and promotes obesity way more than other forms of caffeinated beverage typically do. Especially when the soda in question is a name brand, like Mtn Dew, (vs generic, like "dewdrop").

For candy, I usually stock up on bulk candy, like kopikos (a fantastic coffee flavored candy), at the local asian store, and at bulk retailers like sam's club. I can get a 2lb. Bottle of individually wrapped kopikos for 5$, and can get other misc candy at sams similarly cheaply.

Asking the employer to provide these products seems unreasonable to me. The employer should instead just allow anytime consumption of such treats. (Some employers are downright sticklers about food and drink being around computer equipment, or about consumption outside of breaktimes.)

Just set up a rotation for who buys the snacks, and who gets the drinks, and set up a piggy bank in the breakroom. If that isn't feasible For some reason, (big cube farm?), then ask the employer to put in "anytime" pop and snack machines.

The real warning sign is when managemet focuses on having you chained to your desk vs having you be productive. (And accordingly is miserly about catching you out of your desk, or getting said drink or snack when you need it.) That is a sign of incompetent management grasping for some metric that they can report for their effectiveness, other than real productivity, and is a sign to escape.

brb got to get my fix (1)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#43785321)

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.

Our K-Cup bill is probably insane... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785327)

I don't want to know how much our company spends on K-Cups, sugar, and creamer each month. And we're a small group of around 15!

The last thing people should worry about (3, Insightful)

Joe Tie. (567096) | about a year ago | (#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.

Not always money. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785343)

At a company that I was at, there was a particularly bad time. So they went into cost-cutting mode. In one week, they announced a 10% interim salary reduction, and moving from milk in the floor kitchen to whitener.

Strangely, people accepted the 10% reduction (which was repaid in full and in lieu when times got better). But, oh my, the uproar about the whitener vs the milk. It was the only continual negativity during that week. They did bring back milk after a couple of weeks, bringing back the salary cut in a couple of quarters.

I think one of two things happened. 1) The company found something that would make the mornings, mid-mornings and afternoons less enjoyable in the office. 2) The company pulled a sleight-of-hand, coupling a direct, continual impact with a bi-weekly impact in the pocket. Overall, I think it was well played by the management.

The real perks I want (4, Insightful)

unfortunateson (527551) | about a year ago | (#43785371)

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

Eric Spiegel is an idiot (1)

SupplyMission (1005737) | about a year ago | (#43785391)

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 help convince himself that he was right, if not others. If he were my boss, I'd transfer or quit, and if I couldn't transfer or quit, I'd lie down on his desk and slit my wrists.

worst place (2)

Spazmania (174582) | about a year ago | (#43785397)

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.

Showers (1)

ichthus (72442) | about a year ago | (#43785417)

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.

Re:Showers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785541)

showers would only lead to mandatory overnight or weekend cram-sessions to meet some deadline or another...

intrinsic motivation (5, Insightful)

mbaGeek (1219224) | about a year ago | (#43785465)

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 ...

OK, let's say that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785481)

...in TFA, they didn't get rid of sodas and energy bars.

Which of your friends would you lay off, instead, to save money? Or, better still, why don't you take the bullet and give up your job so everyone else can have the freebies?

Uh-huh. Thought so.

When you start seeing perks as entitlements, that's the real danger. Most places I've worked the coffee is free but soda (or anything else) never has been.

I'd rather just have more pay and more time off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785505)

Just give me money and normal working hours. Keep the spa, gourmet meals, XBox, and all that other crap. Pay me well and let me have a life outside of work.

A convenient canary... (5, Insightful)

Above (100351) | about a year ago | (#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.

the article really talks about two things (2)

Mirar (264502) | about a year ago | (#43785529)

There's two things to this story.

1. "perks" - but I wouldn't want to call it perks. It's efficiency benefits. Coders and other creative people work better if you make sure they (we?) have everything they need. Coffee, snacks, soda, bananas... that extra half hour of effective coding a day pays off _quickly_.

But it's really the same with things you wouldn't consider "perks" - computers and OSes that helps efficiency, ergonomic chairs and keyboards, silent enough environments, few enough meetings... everyone can probably easily make up their own list of what *they* need to be an efficient and creative at the workplace. Those needs should be grouped with the soda.

Personally, I rather have a creative and happy workplace than higher salary. But then again, I like to spend my work-time creative and happy.

2. The other thing the article is talking about is the warning sign. If things like free soda gets pulled - which doesn't cost much - much bigger things are on the horizon. Update your linkedin profile. Start looking for a new place... This is absolutely true.
(GM pulled the free coffee - a little later they sold the office, and a little later went economically haywire. Most people had left just a little after the coffee incident.)

Other warning signs includes phrases like "business as usual".

(Right now I wouldn't want to work at Google, for instance.)

That said, my office doesn't have free soda. But the work is very creative and full of freedom and I'm quite happy anyway. :)

If you haven't been a developer you don't know! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43785557)

Unreasonable and impossible deadlines and demands, in a competitive office atmosphere, added to one of the most intellectually demanding activities there is. Try programming a database with complex SQL filters, and have the client change his mind a half a dozen times halfway to the deadline! You can be a dumb ass and go cheap, or keep the popcorn and Coke flowing. I know which one will get the job done sooner and better.

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