It can be hard to describe the Sensibill office without it sounding a bit like bragging. It’s a beautiful old converted building, but it also has that cool-factor that startups do so well: plants everywhere, a well-stocked fridge, a pool table and a ping pong table, an entire wall with a mural of John McClane navigating the air ducts of Nakatomi Plaza. All the essentials.
It’s undeniable that those office perks are fun. But no one accepts a job at Sensibill because of our beer or abundance of movie references. Research shows that employees value opportunities to grow their career, high-quality managers, and fulfilling work far more than a fun-filled workplace.
So why do some companies prioritize their perks above all else? And what is the actual power of the ping pong table?
So you have a ping pong table… So what?
Sometimes bringing up the flashier office amenities can be a touchy subject. Too often, those things are covering up a company that doesn’t care about its employees in more substantive ways. The tech industry is rife with stories of beer-fuelled brogrammers and companies that think a free meal is a fair trade off for 80-hour work weeks. You can see why people are skeptical of catered lunches and kegs—they don’t necessarily equal a healthy work environment.
That’s why, while we love showing off our office at events like Startup Open House, we rarely make it a focus in our recruitment efforts. We’re looking for people that value the same things we do: Our core principles and our mission to create innovative banking tools for the self-employed.
The point of perks
All of that said, I don’t think these perks are the enemy, either. A beer fridge in a company with poor values can be bro-y and toxic, but in the right place, having a drink and playing ping pong is something that brings people together at the end of a work week.
That’s the hidden ROI for all these perks: Liking your coworkers matters. We hire people who are not only great at what they do, but also make the company as a whole great. Fostering these cross-team bonds and bringing together people who may not work directly with each other is important. Being able to problem solve, collaborate, and create incredible products is hard, but it’s easier if you know and trust the people you’re working with.
Disrupting the hustle
In the startup world, which has a tendency to emphasize “hustle” above all else, there’s particular value in having outlets to destress and recharge. It’s not just about social outings, we’re also actively trying to advocate for employee wellness by organizing in-office massages, guided stretching, and morning yoga.
Having fun together has tangible day-to-day benefits, as well. Structured breaks throughout the day are shown to increase people’s productivity and reduce burnout. Research has shown that having jolts of happiness and fun integrated in the work day also encourages people to be more creative and innovative.
In The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor, he explores how in-office amenities boost happiness, which in turn boosts productivity. Achor explains that having something to look forward to, whether it’s an after-work beer or a ping pong tournament with coworkers, raises endorphins by up to 27% and company success with it. All of these things help–not hinder–our ability to grind and #getshitdone when it’s time to.
Culture comes first
Company culture is built in a million different ways, and if you’re relying on a trendy office to carry you then you won’t get far. We’re certainly not saying we get everything right, but if you instill the right values, prioritize the right benefits, and hire the right people, then all those perks are just tools to make your team stronger. Because at the end of a long work week, it’s not about the ping pong table, it’s about the people that are around it.