Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

Is There A Down Side To The Free Lunch At Google?

Chapter 6:  Corporate Culture -The Invisible Hand of the Company Part 8

Shortly after the arrival of Marissa Mayer as CEO, Yahoo started giving free lunches to its employees as a means to change the culture and improve morale.[i]

Google, where she worked for many years is known for having free, very nutritious lunches.  It’s a great benefit and while I’ve never eaten there, I did go to the Califia Café, started by a former Google Chef. The food is fantastic.

One writer estimated that Google spent $72 million on food in 2008 .[ii] Why does Google do that?  Does anyone think it’s because they care about employees, or are being nice? (Sorry, I realize I am getting that snarky tone again.  Normally, in situations like this, I ask my wife read to help me moderate, but since she just got back from a business trip, I’ll spend my time with her catching up and let the chips fall where they may with the tone of the post.)

The benefits to Google include higher morale, a stronger culture, a talking point to keep salaries lower, and a way to keep people close to the office.

And it’s not just food that Google and other companies offer.  According to tech enthusiast Jonathan Strickland the Googleplex offers on site haircuts, medical, dry cleaning, laundry (complete with employees bringing in dirty laundry on the weekend), massage, as well as pools, gyms, video games and ping pong.  According to Strickland, the strategy is “keeping the employee workforce in the office more often. Give employees enough reasons to stick around and you’ll likely see productivity go up. Why head home when everything you need is at work?”[iii]

These perks are one way to address the difficulty of work life balance by bringing some of the life tasks into the workplace.  Is there a downside to this?


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[i]  The only way to truly change this theme is for the company as a whole to embrace a new vision and strive for it. For that, they need happy workers.

[ii] Google’s Ginormous Free Food Budget: $7,530 Per Googler, $72 Million A Year* by Vasanth Sridharan | Business Insider| Apr. 23, 2008, 2:36 PM  Retrieved October 24, 2012  Read

[iii] How the Googleplex Works by Jonathan Strickland Retrieved October 24, 2012 Read



  1. Greg Marcus says

    Strickland mentions the Google 15, the 15 pounds people gain when they start to work for the company. Is that a function of free food or less exercise? Is it a negative outcome of free food?

  2. Quemment Atlee says

    With the added time at the office, as opposed to homes I wonder about two potential issues:

    1) Disconnect from family and friends might result if one took to the office nearly constantly because of the amenities. I wonder if some may spend too many hours at work, to the detriment of other relationships.

    2) Personally, I feel that an office, even one with the greatest perks, is still an office. I tend to like to end my day at the office, and do my best to ignore those concerns when away.

    • Greg Marcus says

      Quemment – I think you bring up two really good points. Being away from the office rests the mind, and allows the opportunity of cross-fertilization with new ideas. And those relationships need presence.


  1. […] Previous Post  Next post>>  Life in a positive corporate culture. Please […]

  2. […] From her first weeks at Yahoo, Meyer has worked to change the culture, to become a place where people work with energy to create synergy for innovation.  One part of the strategy was free lunches, to encourage employees to stay in the office. (See this post for a discussion of the downside of the free lunch culture.) […]