Perks Come Second

136777729_ffa183362f_mGoogle isn’t just everyone’s go-to search engine; it’s also everyone’s go-to example of a hip edgy workplace. Heck, there’s even a movie about it. But if you’re like me, most of what you know about what a Google office looks like is based on hearsay and a few pictures. That’s why I was excited to read this inside look from the New York Times.

Much to my surprise, the office wasn’t as quirky as I had imagined; it was even quirkier. Conversation areas are designed to look like vintage subway cars, offices look like apartments, and of course, there’s a beautiful view of Manhattan (the article profiles Google’s New York office).

All of this is exciting and stimulating, for sure, but for me the crux of the article came on the third page. After touring the office, James Stewart, the article’s author, visits a Harvard professor of a business administration, Teresa Amabile. Her take? What Google is doing with their workspaces is fantastic, but in the end, she says:

“…none of this matters unless people feel they have meaningful work and are making progress at it. In over 30 years of research, I’ve found that people do their most creative work when they’re motivated by the work itself.”

What does that mean? It means that perks are exactly that: perks, add-ons, a little something extra. You can buy the nicest bed in the world. It’s not going to help you sleep if you’ve got a neighbor who tunes his trumpet collection every night. Likewise, a cool office isn’t going to help if you don’t like the job you’re doing.

Now, I don’t mean this to be taken as anything against Google. They do amazing things there, and if you can get a job with them doing what you want to do, that’s great. I’m also not saying that you should overlook perks entirely. Perks are often how companies show their employees that they care. For example, employees at Google don’t need to worry about packing a lunch, because the cafeteria offers healthy meals at no charge.

All I’m saying is put the perks where they belong: in the background. Look at the job first. If it’s right for you, then look at the incentives they have to offer. If you’re happy doing the work, you’ll be happy at work, and a hip, swanky office will just make it even better!

Are perks and environment big sellers for you, or could you care less? Let us know in the comments!

(photo by Flickr user brionv used under a Creative Commons License.)

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