by Dr. Hanson Lenyoun and Zachary Kazzaz
For the uninitiated, walking into tech companies’ office spaces can feel like stepping into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Sweets and treats line the walls and stocked beverage fridges greet you at every turn. Employees are never more than a few steps away from a snack–and that’s before the free lunch appears.
These perks seem awesome, but there’s a side that isn’t discussed. While free snacks are meant to increase employee morale, few people acknowledge they may be harming employees’ health, well-being, and productivity, and negatively impacting the companies they work for. It’s time to take a step back and reconsider the costs and benefits of company perks.
From the Freshman 15 to the Tech 20
While set in a new venue with conference bicycles and Lego-filled innovation rooms, it’s important to realize the behaviors being perpetuated in these offices are not novel, and neither are the outcomes. We’ve seen this play out in the form of the “Freshman 15” – the weight gain of first year college students due to convenient access to fat and carbohydrate-rich foods, served buffet style. Now those former students are a bit older, their metabolisms slower, their lives significantly less active, and we’re setting them up for failure, again.
Colleges have realized the problem and are launching programs aimed at helping students build positive health and fitness habits. Yet in tech, we’re still on the wrong side of the curve, creating a hiring market where these Wonkian perks are expected, and we’re surprised when we end up driving young professionals to gain the more nefarious “Tech 20.”