How do I deal with a lack of perks/subpar facilities at my company?
November 23, 2017 12:24 PM   Subscribe

I know this may make me sound entitled but tell me if I’m over reacting or thinking out of place regarding work environment. I’ve worked at tech companies for most of my career. My last companies had pretty good facilities and would often have snacks and coffee at a minimum. Most of them would buy us lunch at least once a week. From what I read about other tech companies, this seems like the norm.

Fast forward to my current job. We are a startup tech company that just raised over $10 million in series A funding, with previously $2 million in a seed round in Los Angeles area. My salary is pretty competitive for my position as a software engineer. It seems that money isn't an issue for the company.

The work environment is not so great in comparison to what I’ve had in the past/the competition I’ve heard about. Our facilities are sub par. We work in an older building with no light past 5pm (once the sun sets) due a lack of artificial lighting in the office. We had no AC in the office for a month this summer it was uncomfortable to work since I would be sweating since it was so hot. (90-100 degree weather...And I don’t normally sweat). It took a month to finally get a portable AC unit that even then didn't work so well to cool the entire space. The bathrooms are often out of stock for the toilet seat covers, paper towels, and soap. There is only one toilet stall for the whole floor of 10 or so other offices, so if it’s being used you’re out of luck. The company rarely buys the team meals (unless there’s a new candidate that we are interviewing), rarely holds happy hours or team events (there’s only been two happy hours since my almost year at the company). Today we were invited to a company lunch (last day before Thanksgiving) and I was under the assumption that it would have been paid for by the company but we were on our own to pay for our own meals. Other than the basics such as salary, health insurance and 2 weeks PTO, there are no other extra perks provided by the company.

My manager works remotely pretty much all the time (lives in a different city) but I am expected to work in the office most of the time. My manager claimed that operations needed to be in the office so I needed to be in the office but I am an engineer and all of the engineering team I work with works remotely. It seemed that my manager didn't really have a good reason but wanting me to be in the office just be another warm body. We have daily stand up meetings so it's not like I am not pulling my weight, and if so, it hasn't been brought up in performance reviews. My manager works remotely so it seems hypocritical to not be leading by example.

Although I can certainly afford the snacks, coffee, meals, drinks, etc. the fact that there are no perks or company paid for team events makes me feel unappreciated since it seemed standard at my previous companies and at other tech firms. Since they were so generous in buying me lunch, coffee, etc during the interview process, I just assumed that they would be more generous once on board. I know these are somewhat trivial matters but is it worth looking for a new job for these seemingly lack of standard perks? Are my concerns valid and is it common for tech companies at our stage to be so cheap and perk-less to their employees? Is there a way I can suggest that they start offering these perks or having more team events without sounding entitled? The thought of job hunting really gives me anxiety and I'd rather not have to do it again.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (22 answers total)
Um. I don't have a "corporate" job at all, but I'd say that lights, soap, reasonable temperatures, and adequate toilet facilities aren't "perks", they're basic necessities. The heck with the dinner and snacks, you don't have a basic functional work environment. I'd raise these issues first with your manager - if you get no action I'd take that as a bad sign.
posted by soundguy99 at 12:41 PM on November 23, 2017 [72 favorites]

I don't think it's trivial. Yeah, I think it's worth looking for another job. You seem unhappy -- and for good reason, imo, the job doesn't seem competitive with other tech companies considering the bathroom issue and lack of perks. The fact that they won't allow you to telecommute (in LA, for crying out loud) when you really don't need to be there (and your manager can and does) is not cool. If they have good reasons why you're needed in the office, that would be one thing, but they won't provide you with reasons and then make the office as dreary and dungeon-like as possible too? That's bad. I have no idea how they're allocating their funds, but it's clear they have little concern for their employees basic necessities. Polish up your resume.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 12:44 PM on November 23, 2017 [6 favorites]

You believe that you are not being treated fairly and you don't feel appreciated by your employer. While I may think that you sound entitled, the details behind why you are unhappy at work don't really matter. You're unhappy. It seems that you know you can do better elsewhere, so find a new job.
posted by halogen at 12:44 PM on November 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

I read the "above the fold" part of your question and was all ready to get indignant about a privileged techie and then read on to find out that they're denying you basic workplace standards. No free meals are one thing, dirty restrooms and lack of AC and light are in a totally different category. Also 2 weeks of PTO? That's sucks.

I work as a techie but for a non-profit hospital system so we don't get free lunches or pop and don't even get bonuses because of the non-profit status but the toilets are clean and the lights turn on and we get three weeks of PTO to start.
posted by octothorpe at 12:50 PM on November 23, 2017 [38 favorites]

I'm a public school teacher and we get none of those perks and half the pay. (Admittedly, we get a lot of time off and our own classrooms, etc.) However, I make double or even triple what many of my students' families make, many of whom work under much worse conditions. What I'm trying to say is that all of this is relative. I have friends and family who work in tech and, based on their experiences, this scenario does sound sub-par. I'm glad that your salary is good at the very least!

I'm going to argue that your company actually isn't doing quite as well financially as you're thinking and/or that the people in charge are clueless and/or misers. They're not paying for meals because they can't afford to or don't want to, and asking them to cover it likely won't go over well; they might start offering more time off but probably not and certainly not for a few years. Asking for more light so you can work late is fair; the AC is, too, but they could and should have done more that they chose not to do. As for the bathrooms, there's hope because it's possible that there's a disconnect or miscommunication between the office manager and cleaning staff. Is there an officer manager? That person should be at least working on the lighting and bathroom but apparently is not.

You can work to change things but chances are that things are going to stay this way: you can accept it for now or look for another job, although I know you don't want to. If you seek to change things, I'd start by talking to other employees that you're friendly with about their expectations and feelings about the status quo. If they are happy as is, I'd believe that it's just not the most ideal work environment for you. If they agree, you could work together to speak to supervisors unless you'd feel that speaking up individually would go over better (in case they're overly sensitive and might think you're organizing against them, which is ridiculous but possible.) You know the place best: what next step do you think would bring about the most change?

I don't know what your gender is but if you happen to identify as female, please consider this: you could take this on, offer to lead a hospitality committee or speak to maintenance or the like, but then you are taking on a sort of career-based kin work that is not in your job description. People would appreciate it, surely, but it's not what you were hired for nor something you should have to do.
posted by smorgasbord at 1:15 PM on November 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

I would separate working conditions, compensation, and perks.

Working conditions - these sound dreadful. No A/C, soap, LIGHT, etc.? That's bad.

Compensation - PTO is part of compensation, as is telecommuting. This is not good, but you did accept these terms.

Perk - Snacks and coffee. Okay, kind of weird, but probably not the hill you want to die on if the job is good for your resume, positions your career where you want it to go, etc.
posted by warriorqueen at 1:17 PM on November 23, 2017 [29 favorites]

Isn't that kind of employee : toilet ratio an OSHA violation?

It's entirely possible that your company hasn't had any time to think about work environment -- and by extension (and by the conduct of your manager), team cohesion or happiness. Sure, maybe the earlier employees are so committed to the technology / product that they don't care, but since you do, go ahead and look for another job unless there are signs that this could change.
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:22 PM on November 23, 2017 [4 favorites]

There are lots of good, well-paying jobs for software engineers in LA. LOTS. Move on.
posted by primethyme at 1:30 PM on November 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

Not all of the things you mentioned are in the same category.

Facilities: Most likely the company does not have control over the HVAC, artificial lighting or bathrooms in the building. With new funding in the bank and employees to hire, they should be looking for newer facilities, since these are pretty fundamental to operating a business and retaining staff. But it takes time to scout out places and set it all up. You should ask your manager if they can provide any details and they should know about it. If they do not, the company is not good at knowing what is important and would be expected to make bad decisions later on.

I started at a position where I would rate the facilities sub-par, but the company had funding, was going on a hiring binge and six months later they had moved to bigger shiny new duds. Also worked for a company that did the opposite, and it was clear they were on a downhill slope and I left soon after.

Working remotely: This is an issue between you and your manager. If they are smart and you have shown you are trustworthy, you should be able to leverage the failing facilities into some kind of working remote setup. If you manager is doing some kind of power play, this is a really bad sign, worse so than facilities/perks.

If a lot of your team is working remotely, it may be a sign that your company is not competitive enough with compensation to actually attract local employees. If you're the only local employee this is a red flag.

Team meals/coffee/etc. : These decisions generally show that the company is penny-wise/dollar foolish. If most of your company is remote, then a case can be made that these wouldn't be much benefit to anyone. But if not, in a startup it's important to increase morale/communications with these things, often because startups are often so weak in other perks. So these are generally bad signs.

Two weeks PTO isn't great either. If your company already has a ton of people, $10 million may not actually cover people for that long of a time if your company isn't making any money.
posted by meowzilla at 1:33 PM on November 23, 2017 [2 favorites]

I work in tech and we're very conscious from an employer brand/retention perspective that we need to offer great facilities and perks. This is seen as necessary to be competitive in our employment market, to the extent that I'm really surprised your company doesn't see it as such (especially given the amount of money that seems to be going around otherwise).

Culture is another thing that people care about a lot in tech, and I guess the cultural vibe I get from what you've described is that the company sees employees as necessary enough that they can command a salary & benefits package on a par with the local market, but doesn't really care about you guys in terms of basic human comfort and necessities, in a way which feels very out of step with the market.

Also, productivity is often a big thing in tech, and an ethos I hear often (and which my company shares) is that you make it as easy as possible for people to do their jobs well. High-end hardware and equipment, food and beverages available on site so that people don't have to spend mental energy on figuring out what to eat (I'm aware some places also have a sinister "we want you to spend every hour in this building" vibe around that but I've also seen it done in healthy ways), adequate toilet facilities (!!!) because damn it everyone needs to go.

I'm surprised that your company doesn't think you'll work better if you have light after 5pm and AC in the summer and more than one bathroom stall. Why is that not important to them? What does that tell you about company priorities? If no one in management is worried about this or they haven't noticed the office space is not set up to make it easy for people to work...why are they not thinking about it? These are all completely normal, cost-of-doing-business provisions, especially given the money/industry.
posted by terretu at 1:34 PM on November 23, 2017 [3 favorites]

posted by robcorr at 1:55 PM on November 23, 2017 [9 favorites]

robcorr, speak up.
This is literally what unions are for. Don't look for another job. That's putting your own livelihood into an even more precarious position without incentivizing your employer to fix things for your fellow workers. Even if the unionization campaign fails, it will be a wake-up call to the employer that they will have to improve conditions or risk further disruptions among the employees.

You're already thinking about leaving, what do you have to lose?
posted by Krawczak at 2:31 PM on November 23, 2017 [10 favorites]

They sound like assholes, frankly. You can certainly bring this shit up with them in hopes they will fix it, but be prepared for that to be your jumping off point into a job search. If they don't already know or care that this is a crappy way to treat their employees... well, there is know way they don't know so clearly they do not care.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:32 PM on November 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

If your boss can't pay for light and A/C, how are they going to pay your salary? Normally I'd say unionize but I'm not sure if they have any money themselves (or they're scamming). Anyway, unless this is your dream project, leave.
posted by kingdead at 4:00 PM on November 23, 2017

That all sounds ridiculous especially the coffee.
posted by All Out of Lulz at 4:20 PM on November 23, 2017

If you are getting equity and believe the company is likely to be successful, then stay.

If not, then leave.
posted by aramaic at 9:21 PM on November 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

You're not overreacting to the basic health and safety issues like lack of adequate restroom facilities, functioning climate control, and decent lighting in the office. Those are all things you should feel entitled to and your employer needs to remediate those problems.

Two weeks of PTO is not great, especially if it combines sick leave and vacation time. However, presumably they told you about that when they made your job offer. If for some reason they didn't that's pretty terrible, but the onus is largely on you to negotiate and clarify all the significant aspects of your compensation before you join a company. Things like policies on remote work are also best discussed up front.

About the perks like free snacks and beverages, company-paid meals, and sponsored offsite events, well, that ultimately comes down to what you personally value. My own opinion (as a startup employee myself) is that scrimping on the cost of beverages and basic office snacks is ultimately counterproductive—consider the cost of people leaving the office for a coffee run once or twice a day—and inviting people to a company holiday meal and then expecting individuals to foot the bill is stingy and in poor taste. I do also appreciate the occasional company-sponsored lunch or happy hour.

Beyond that, I'd rather take home a larger paycheck and bring my own lunch. I spent most of my formative professional years at companies where perks like free meals were very much not the norm so I never came to expect them. I would also prefer to see a startup (which by definition is not turning a regular profit) focus on investing money in the business. Since you say your salary is good, consider whether your employer might be making a similar tradeoff. That said, if you feel that working for a company which provides a lot of meals, team-building events, and (I'm inferring) a generally more social culture is important to your job satisfaction and productivity, that is certainly your right. This particular company just may not be a good culture fit for you.

As for what you do about it... I'm guessing that your site does not have an office manager or operations person. If your manager works remotely s/he is also not regularly confronted with issues related to your physical worksite. Time to start (politely but firmly) confronting your manager, focusing on the health and safety issues first. How large is the team working on site at this office? Consider organizing a meeting with all the local employees to talk with the leadership team about these legitimate concerns. If, after that, management continues to let these problems slide that is a pretty big red flag.

For things like the coffee and snacks, you can try presenting it as a productivity issue and ask for some funding. Again assuming that you don't have an office manager on site, you might need to step up and organize the logistics yourself. For perks beyond that, it's hard to say because I can't tell whether management is making a calculated tradeoff in compensation, unaccustomed to a perk-heavy culture but open to it, or unaccustomed to a perk-heavy culture and not open to it. As above, you could try organizing some events or a regular lunch/happy hour with the local team on your own. If this builds a positive team culture, management should ultimately recognize and encourage it. In a startup, part of what is "starting up" is the company culture. Maybe you have an opportunity to make an impact here.
posted by 4rtemis at 11:01 PM on November 23, 2017

This is abnormal even by non-tech standards.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:35 PM on November 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've worked in tech for 20 years. Listen, a lack of paid happy hours and meals is not a big deal -- you could be working for a company that considers frugality a virtue. I'd bring my own drip coffeemaker if there was no coffee provided, plus it's a great way to make friends. Those are all okay. Free shit is a "nice to have."

However... if the facilities are neglected, if you literally have no lights after 5pm and no TP in the john on the regular, that is not tech being unusually stingy, it's either a sign of exceptional upfuckery in the facilities management, or money problems. If think it's a good company and you want to stick it out, you can push the working from home thing, but I would just bring in my own $30 floor lamp from Target and ask to expense it because the facilities team is interfering with your ability to do your job... because I wouldn't want to get cut off from office gossip by working from home. A coffeemaker-facilitated office gossip pipeline may help you find out if it really is money at heart of the facilities issues, or a turf war, or nobody wants the job, or what. What I'm saying is, some problems you trivially can work around (working late and coffee) and others you will have to dive more deeply into before you can make a decision or try to improve things. And if turns out that it's not office management upfuckery but money problems, you should get out before the money runs out, if for no other reason than layoffs really, really blow.
posted by sldownard at 12:25 AM on November 24, 2017 [10 favorites]

I started my reading of the question assuming my answer would be "yes entitled" - and then I got to the bit about no artificial lighting.

Run like hell.
posted by PMdixon at 7:16 PM on November 24, 2017 [2 favorites]

No free snacks and no lighting are not in the same category! Some of these sound like very basic health and safety violations.

I'd recommend reporting the working conditions to the labour and health departments, and looking for another job.In the meantime, you could also work to unionize, as a way of holding your crappy management to account and protecting yourself and future workers as long as you're there.
posted by rpfields at 10:18 AM on November 25, 2017

First off, there is no shame in wanting what other people might considers makes you be “entitled”. Absolutely no one in the thread would say “no thanks, you already pay me enough” when offered a raise, so don’t feel bad about wanting employee “perks”. Those perks are usually a form of bribery to keep you happy with a lower salary anyway, since free coffee and snacks are much cheaper than a $5k bump or whatever.

That said, your company only wants people who think to themselves “at least I have a job”.

Retention for engineers in Los Angeles isn’t as hard as up in the bay, but companies still have to work hard to keep people happy. But your company is so out of line with even the basement of what anyone with a dream of keeping engineers would be offering.

There is a lot of good advice up above on how to convince the company to offer more perks, but the red flag thrown up by the situation is blocking out the sun.
Either your company is so broke they have a slim chance of making the very next payroll, or the really don’t give a shit because they have a group of people who will put up with anything. Either way you need a different job.

Get your resume up on LinkedIn/StackOverflow.
posted by sideshow at 10:45 PM on November 25, 2017 [1 favorite]

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