Do you Work in a Cult Compound?

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What if you could have everything you needed in life… at work?

Comfortable couches, fitness centers, dry cleaning, concierge service, cafes and restaurants, sleep rooms, daycare, ping pong, beer fridge…sounds nice, right? With all of those perks and amenities, why would you ever need to LEAVE the office?

There are many companies, big and small, that are building their corporate culture in just this way.

Zappos is building a compound in Las Vegas, Google is famous for their “Googleplex”, and Apple for their university-style campus.

These organizations are creating compounds where work IS home. At Zappos, employees are encouraged to spend time with each other even after working hours, in order to foster relationships.

“We don’t really telecommute at Zappos. We want employees to be interacting with each other, building those personal relationships and relationships outside of work as well.” says Tony Hsieh, CEO in Business Insider.

Now, no one could argue that these businesses haven’t done well. Obviously they are hugely successful.

However, we see a danger in building cult compounds for your employees.

1. It’s incredibly expensive. Many businesses waste money on perks like these, rather than providing the kinds of creative benefits that employees truly value.

2. It takes away choice and autonomy. People want to choose their own child care, gym, and restaurants. People want to make choices about where and when they get work done, avoid the commute, be available for their families and communities.

Instead of people having control over their lives, organizations are creating compounds (or mini-compounds) where work IS home so that they can monitor their employees while at the same time providing all the things their employees should be grateful for. We need to be building performance-based work cultures, not cult compounds.

This is a frightening trend that does not allow for freedom, but is the antithesis of 100% autonomy and accountability.

What do you think of the corporate compound trend?

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Comments

  1. I could say that I work in a cult compound only to a certain extent. Yes, the company I work in tries to do everything possible to make our office more pleasant to work and stay in, and it also pays for the gym, but I wouldn’t say there’s no alternative. Employees aren’t made to stay at the office after working hours for a game of ping-pong – it’s completely up to them. Personally I see no harm in companies making efforts to make their employees more comfortable. It’s just they understand that certain benefits may be considered even better than a pay raise.

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  2. Cathy – I agree. If we do have to be in a certain place at a certain time to get work done, then having that place that we do that work be pleasant is always nice. However, if we expect people do put in time at a certain place even if they don’t need to actually be there to do the work, and then we fill up the place with ping pong tables and the like to make them feel better about being forced to ‘do time’, then that’s a waste of money and resources. And it becomes a game of managing people’s time and place, and not the actual ‘work’. When you say ’employees aren’t made to stay’, ask yourself if they have to let anyone know when they’re leaving early or coming in late – or if they have to ask permission to work from home. Then you’ll know if they have true autonomy.

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