At renegade free-market workplaces, the best perks are paying to use your own desk

At the Japanese company Disco, workers pay for their own desks -- and benefit enormously.

Employees at Japan’s Disco Corp. think twice before hanging up their umbrellas in the office on a rainy day.

At renegade free-market workplaces, the best perks are paying to use your own desk

Why? Because they have to pay for it. 

In fact, according to a Bloomberg report, employees at Disco pay for everything from conference-room access (which costs $100/hour) to advice from coworkers (rates vary).

But the bold, bizarre business model works

Since Disco (which makes production equipment for the semiconductor industry) launched its radical management strategy 8 years ago, its stock price has increased 4x and its margins have improved from 16% to 26%.

Each employee at the company operates like an autonomous startup, using an internal currency called “Will” (short for “Personal Will”) to rent desk space, pay colleagues for consultation, or bid on projects.

The system creates an intense free-market atmosphere that eliminates redundant tasks (assignments that don’t get bids often turn out to be unnecessary).

Are anti-perks the new perks?

Disco contrasts starkly with American tech giants like Google, Facebook, and Apple that offer lavish free perks (Zumba classes! Craft beer on tap! Nap pods! All Free!).

But what Disco doesn’t offer in plush perks, it makes up for with plentiful performance bonuses: Disco worker pay is double the national average thanks to never-ending monitoring, and overtime work has dropped 9% thanks to efficiency increases.

Can ‘personal will’ and ‘radical transparency’ go mainstream?

Disco isn’t the only company to radically monitor employee performance.

American billionaire Ray Dalio built the world’s largest hedge fund, Bridgewater Associates, on the concept of “radical transparency,” requiring employees to constantly grade each other’s performance. 

But Disco and Bridgewater both found their systems don’t work for everyone: Many bright engineers allegedly left Disco due to its pressure-cooker culture, and 35% of Bridgewater recruits last less than 18 months in the company’s “cauldron of fear and intimidation.” 

Maybe the answer lies somewhere between Silicon Valley startups’ kombucha taps and Disco’s charge-by-the minute umbrella hangers…

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