Working in the Silicon Valley certainly has its benefits. One of those benefits is access to a number of high-end restaurants serving pizza, sushi, ice cream and luxurious pastries – and all of it is free of charge. But this policy of unbridled freedom is coming to an end for Facebook employees in a bid to support businesses.
Technology companies are coming under increasing pressure to be more conscious of the communities they affect with their work, and many cities are expressing their concerns about company cafeterias.
These cafeterias are said to take business away from smaller local restaurants and hurt the economy. City authorities have told Facebook it cannot provide free food for staff when it moves to its new office in Mountain View, with the whole city of San Francisco apparently soon to follow suit.
This isn’t to say they have to pay full price, however. In a contract dealing with the move into the new offices, it stipulates that Facebook may not subsidise meals for employees by more than 50%. The level of discount that employees will get is not clear, but it’s certain that free food is now a thing of the past.
In another rule change, Facebook will be allowed to cover the cost of employees’ food if they use restaurants that are open to the public, thus giving local businesses a fair chance at custom and prevent overuse of exclusive cafeterias.
Using public restaurants may present a difficulty to many Silicon Valley workers. A large portion of these businesses are based in wastelands with little access to restaurants and local amenities, resulting in the birth of staff-exclusive cafeterias.
As well as necessity, the reasons for the free food make sense to the employers. Allowing staff to have luxury free food on campus gives them little reason to need to leave – and extracts the maximum number of working hours out of employees every day.
These new rules would prevent this from happening, increasing integration with the local community and improve local restaurants’ profits. Many other big businesses have been offered incentives to relocate to more urbanised areas, and Facebook is next in a long line being made to make the change.
Many have expressed concern, since these existing employee cafeterias provide jobs with a decent healthcare plan and other benefits, but the payoff would be improvement to local businesses and a healthier economy for more people overall. So it seems that the new rules will not come without their drawbacks.
For the most part, however, the proposed changes to the structure of company food provision have garnered a positive response from local restaurants, and soon employees could have the chance to be part of a wider community than just their workplace.
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