Are startup ‘perks’ just a PR play?

As workplace culture continues to get called into question, company perks are hard to differentiate: Are they employee perks or PR plays?


April 23, 2019

Over the years, startups have birthed some oddly specific perks, causing more established companies like Pinterest (which offers “craft and skill nights” to their employees) and Zynga (a rooftop dog park) to follow suit.

Now, Fast Company reports that Eat Club, a Silicon Valley-based “virtual cafeteria” that delivers meals to offices, is paying to offset its employees’ individual carbon footprints by incentivizing them to use public transit when commuting to work.

This sounds great, but are incentives like these actually perks designed to make employees better, or are they a thinly veiled attempt to mask 80-hour workweeks and insanely high turnover rates? 

HR Perk? Or PR powerplay? You decide

Let’s be honest, a majority of marshmallow perks are to make a company seem cool even though history shows a lot of times they probably aren’t. And while Eat Club’s perk seems chill, some are a little harder to read: 

  • Google changed its maternity leave plan from 12 weeks to 5 months a few years ago, after seeing new mothers leave the company at 2x the average departure rate.
  • Asana gives $10k to each employee for computers and desk furnishings to keep people from envying the opportunity of a corner office.
  • Patagonia employees are allowed to go surfing whenever the “waves are good” (Patagonia will always get a pass in our book).

PR or HR, the environment should be a given 

Data indicates that if one person (with a 20-mile round-trip commute) committed to public transportation, it could reduce their carbon emissions by almost 5k pounds a year.

Such incentives are great to hand out (they even create new jobs), but perks shouldn’t require you to be on-call 24/7. 

The world’s going to be unlivable in 12 years anyway, so, when it comes to the environment, companies may as well perk on, right? But seriously, stop installing f*cking slides at your office.

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