A few weekends ago I visited a tech-focussed careers fair in London. I wasn’t actively looking for a new job, but knowing what’s going on in the industry is always useful.
Anyway, upon entering and grabbing a guide, I turn left to be immediately presented with a breakout area.
A ball pit.
Stop. What? Where am I?
I look around, momentarily thinking that I’d walked into some kids’ toy convention. I hadn’t. I thought people were here to talk to potential employers, not piss around in a childrens’ play pen. The two guys that occupied the pen (the maximum allowed, enforced by a stern warning by the entrance, of course) looked quite sombre considering their situation. They were both sat, working uncomfortably on laptops. The nearby table was empty.
Ranting aside, the ball pit didn’t actually bother me that much. Honestly it was funny more than anything, although I did manage to restrain myself from giving it a go. Another example of the mentality of the software-development industry, especially for smaller startups. You know, the sleep-pod guitar-hero-at-work generation.
Coincidently, the following day I received an email from a recruiter, who decided to push the job they were recruiting for by describing the merits of the office that I’d be lucky enough to work in. One of the selling points? A DJ Set.
What? (Again). I didn’t even know what this meant, since as described this sounded like there was a permanent concert taking place between the desks. Who would want this?
The email also mentioned many other perks, however this one was my favourite. I just love how it was slipped in the list next to ‘a kitchen’, like it was the most normal thing in the world.
Sometimes, when seeing some of the benefits that tech companies offer their employees, I feel like a free-range chicken on a fancy farm being coaxed into laying nice eggs (software) with nice things. Certain farms give chickens trampolines to wander around on during the day, or maybe even ball pits. You can take naps whenever you please, and you get fed throughout the day. Am I actually talking about farms now, or tech startups?
OK, a tentative analogy, but a fun one.
Is there anything wrong with being pampered in such a way so that the sub-concious can happily go about its work with greater ease? Absolutely not! Whatever works for you, and your business. Hell, it’s fun, most of the time.
But honestly, I don’t want my work to become my recreation. I don’t actually want to have that much fun at work, as odd as that sounds at first. I want to be driven by actual results, not a high score on the arcade machine in the 4th floor meeting room. I have no problem with normal desks, a playground-free office, and actually feeling like I can go home at the end of the day without the chance of missing an ad-hoc 9pm meeting around the 3D printer.
I should say at this point: I’ve never really worked in such an environment. I currently work at Bloomberg, which thankfully for me is very devoid of such things. So how can I complain so vocally? It’s not even like that, you may say.
True, true. However, as an outsider, as someone who has considered companies which pride themselves on their distractions, this is the impression I get. And it’s enough for me to be turned away from applying. I wonder if the recruiter mentioned earlier would have more luck if they spent more email real-estate on the awesome technical aspects of the job. Why I’d want to come to work every morning, aside from having a go on the DJ deck.
Sometimes, work can just be work. And I’m fine with that.