Free Coffee in the Office

I believe in having a more or less happy work environment. I find that everyone, myself included, work better when the atmosphere is positive.

When I had an office, we had plants, we had an aquarium, and we had a coffee machine – all were paid by me directly or indirectly through the company. The statement “oh but you can just expense it”, holds no sway with me. You can only expense things if the company has money to pay you back. Furthermore, that money is coming out of the bottom line, and that happens to be where my personal income comes from…

I am usually accommodating to suggestions. Someone says “hey we need a pink fish”, and I go out and get a pink fish. Someone says “A cactus would be nice”, and I go get a cactus. When some employee complained of the type of coffee I was providing, the coffee I was providing for free and in unlimited quantities, I realized I was being too nice.

It was a clear mistake for several reasons. Free coffee for employees means employees drink more than they normally would, because it’s free. Take a whole cup, throw out half? Who cares, there’s more brewing. Employees take more breaks, which they are not being productive during, and then need bathroom breaks to relieve themselves of the unlimited coffee. It was becoming more and more costly by the minute.

Furthermore, I had also provided cups, not paper to end up in a landfill, real porcelain cups with a handle! At the end of the day, I was left with a pile of dirty cups. Asking employees to clean them, resulted in grumbles. Often they would “forget” to clean them. One bright morning I entered the office first (actually 9 out of 10 times, that was the case), I washed a cup for myself, and the two clients I was meeting with, and in the name of cleanliness (clients were coming), threw the rest out. Thus ended the free coffee.

Moral of the story: Be generous to your employees, but not too generous.