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Office Perks Are Dumb

In a desperate bid to retain young workers, advertising agencies have started to look more like startups, hoping that chill vibes will keep people from quitting.
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Photographer: Kevin Van Paassen/Bloomberg

The office ping-pong table is insulting to the intelligence of employees. We all want to be happy at work, where Americans spend a large chunk of their lives, but employees aren't dumb. We know ping-pong tables and kegarators don't make work fun or fulfilling. It's certainly not a replacement for a decent paycheck. 

Perks are signifiers, a way for organizations to express a commitment to a laid-back corporate culture and, at some companies, a consolation prize for lower salaries and uninteresting work. The trend can be traced back to Google and Zappos. Both built hugely successful businesses on popular products and defined their workplace cultures with the help of beanbag chairs. Perks have since proliferated at startups, media organizations, and tech companies hoping a more comfortable environment will motivate employees and lead to Google-size profits. Some research has linked company culture to profits. That, in turn, has led to a keeping-up-with-the-Googles phenomenon in which certain perks become almost mandatory.