Those working in digital will understand what I’m talking about when I say ‘career bucket list’. It’s that wish-list of companies you’d do (almost) anything to work for.
Google, Airbnb, Amazon, Expedia, Twitter and Facebook are the blockbuster companies candidates cite as the most desirable, day in day out. And as a recruiter it’s my job to manage their expectations.
There’s no denying their draw – and I say that as someone who’s interviewed at Google, and worked at Expedia! Not only are they huge household brands that’ll add instant credibility to your CV, they’re also highly attractive for the perks they offer employees. From swanky offices and access to the latest tech to freebies left, right and centre – it’s hard to be objective about a role when the benefits are so amazing.
And who can blame ambitious digital folk for wanting a pay off for their hard work? I can’t think of many who, given half the chance, wouldn’t love to blow off a hard day at the office by playing video games, football or ping pong with a fridge full of ice cold beer. For some brands though, games are just the beginning.
Take Google, for example. Employees at the company’s Silicon Valley HQ *literally* never have to leave the office – much to their employer’s delight. Need to go home at a reasonable hour to feed your dog? Don’t stress – just bring it to work with you. Need to slip out early for a GP appointment? Why not use the onsite wellness and healthcare services instead? From physicians and chiropractors to physical and massage therapists, Google has you covered.
How about those lunchtime errands like getting a haircut or collecting the dry cleaning? At Google the life admin comes to your desk. Employees can even bring their housework to the office thanks to free laundry facilities. And if it should all get too much, why not dive into the company pool, pound the on-site treadmills or hop into a nap pod?
On this side of the Pond the perks are less OTT. However digital companies are increasingly building campuses rather than standardised office spaces, affording them more space to cram in facilities. Perhaps the most popular perk for British employees is access to world-class canteens.
Packed to the rafters with as much free food as employees can stomach, there’s something on offer for breakfast, lunch and dinner (should you find yourself working late in the office). And if you so happen to get peckish in between there’s a whole host of healthy snacks to satisfy cravings, keep your head in the game and crucially, keep your bum on your seat.
With a work life this good, it begs the question ‘why would you ever go home?’ And herein lies the problem.
A perk too far
With everything an employee could ever want on their work doorstep, perks are billed as helpful and a key factor that contributes to staff happiness and wellbeing – which in turn impacts a company’s bottom line.
In exchange for allowing your home life to rotate around your work life, you’ll be compensated with a generous array of perks that serve to dissolve the barriers that exist between work and home.
It’s my belief that some big tech companies know exactly what they’re doing – bribing their staff. It stands to reason that if there are less outside distractions, you’ll spend more time in the office concentrating on your work. By minimising your reasons to leave, you’ll spend more time in the office concentrating on your work.
What’s most worrying is that employees spend this extra time at work voluntarily, and in most cases believe that it isn’t so bad. Staying late and working overtime has become routine for many British workers with 13% of the working population putting in 49 hours or more per week.
Research by health insurer AXA PPP found that unpaid overtime has become a fact of life for one in four employees, who put in at least seven hours more than their contracted and salaried working time each week.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, increased working hours are having a detrimental effect on our lifestyle. More than 40% of employees are neglecting other aspects of their life because of work, which can increase their vulnerability to mental health problems.
Work related stress costs Britain 10.4 million working days per year and it’s estimated that nearly three in 10 employees will experience a mental health problem in any given year. When working long hours, more than a quarter of employees feel depressed, while a third suffer from anxiety.
Then there’s the impact on family life. The UK’s leading work-life balance charity, Working Families, claims 29% of parents feel burned out often or all the time, with two in five reporting that work intrudes or stops them spending time with their children.
Some will argue that’s the price you pay for such a desirable job. Others will justify the always-on mentality and demanding environment as a byproduct of technology and the demands of a global market. And neither is necessarily wrong.
At the same time, it’s my job to ensure that the candidates I place know what they’re letting themselves in for. While the big benefits that come with a blockbuster employer are of course amazing on the surface, the reality is they could be much more trouble than they’re worth if the entire benefits package isn’t up to scratch.