The salad days of Facebook’s lavish employee perks may be coming to an end.
Meta, parent company of Facebook, told employees on Friday that it is cutting back or eliminating free services such as laundry and dry cleaning. The company is also pushing back the dinner bell for a free meal to 6.30pm from 6pm, according to seven company employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The new dinner time is an inconvenience because the last of the company’s shuttles that take employees to and from their homes typically leaves the office at 6pm. It will also make it more difficult for workers to stock up on hefty to-go boxes of food and bring them to their refrigerators at home.
The moves are a reflection of changing workplace culture in Silicon Valley. Tech companies, which often offer lifestyle perks in return for employees spending long hours in the office, are preparing to adjust to a new hybrid work model.
At Meta, for example, many employees are scheduled to return to the company’s offices on March 28th, although some will continue to work from home and others will come into the office less often.
The changes could be a warning shot for employees at other companies that are preparing to return to the office after two years of the coronavirus pandemic. Google, Amazon, Meta and others have long offered creature comforts such as on-site medical attention, sushi buffets, candy stores and beanbag chairs to lure and retain top talent, which remains at a premium in the tech industry.
Meta has had a difficult past few months, although company officials say the changes to perks are not related. For years the company dominated the social media landscape. Now it is undergoing dramatic changes as its user growth stalls and younger competitors such as TikTok gain traction worldwide. Investors have been questioning the long-term prospects of the company’s advertising business model. Its market capitalisation has dropped by half, to $515 billion (€471 billion). And some employees are debating whether they should be searching for new jobs as they see the value of their stock-based compensation plummet.
Last year, Meta chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company would be shifting its focus to the metaverse, an immersive online virtual world that has yet to be created. Wide swaths of the company were reorganised around Zuckerberg’s vision for augmented– and virtual–reality products, and employees who were not willing to get on board said they felt pushed out of the company.
Meta discussed the changes to its perks program for months as it explored how to shift to the new, hybrid workplace model, said two employees. The company has also expanded employees’ wellness stipends to $3,000 this year from roughly $700 in an attempt to accommodate for removing some of the other in-office perks.
“As we return to the office, we’ve adjusted on-site services and amenities to better reflect the needs of our hybrid workforce,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement. “We believe people and teams will be increasingly distributed in the future, and we’re committed to building an experience that helps everyone be successful.”
Many workers were quick to gripe in the comment section underneath the post announcing the change, according to several employees who viewed the post. Just minutes after the changes were announced, employees asked whether the company was planning to compensate them in new ways and whether Meta had undertaken an employee survey to evaluate how the changes would impact the staff.
Meta executives, who have been trying to thread the needle of cracking down on misinformation tied to the war in Ukraine and facing an outright ban of Facebook and Instagram in Russia, appeared to have little patience for the questions.
In a tone several employees described as combative, Meta’s chief technology officer, Andrew Bosworth, assertively defended some of the changes and chafed at the perceived sense of entitlement on display in the comments, according to the employees who saw the thread. Mike Schroepfer, outgoing chief technology officer, also wrote in the comments in support of the changes.
Another employee who worked on the company’s food service team pushed back even more strenuously, according to two people who saw the post.
“I can honestly say when our peers are cramming three to 10 to-go boxes full of steak to take them home, nobody cares about our culture,” the employee said, pushing back on assertions from others that the changes would be damaging to Meta’s workplace culture. “A decision was made to try and curb some of the abuse while eliminating 6 million to-go boxes.”
It appeared that many employees agreed. As of midday Friday, the employee’s post was the most liked comment in the thread, with hundreds of workers expressing support.
Stopping the laundry and dry cleaning service for employees at Meta’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California, ends a famous – if unusual – perk. The laundry service, which was operated by a third party, had free pickup and drop-off around campus and was intended “to make people’s lives easier”, according to a 2020 interview with a Facebook spokesperson.
One employee, when reached for comment on the changes, texted back, “Can’t talk, doing laundry.” – This article originally appeared in The New York Times.