Arnie and the Myth of the Cool Office

office sleeping

Permissible office drinking – It’s the mythical unicorn sought by every working professional.  You see it on TV and may have met someone who claimed to have once worked in such a place.  But you’ve never landed one of those fabled positions.

Now out of nowhere, it seems employers everywhere are pouring drinks.  “Workers cluster around a beer-vending machines—nicknamed Arnie—after the day’s client meetings are done” at Boston advertising agency Arnold Worldwide, says the Wall Street JournalBloomberg profiles Manhattan-based tech company Inc., who “provides beer on tap, free lunch, and an ice cream machine.”

Office-sponsored drinking has suddenly gone from myth to mainstream.  In such a circumstance, one is wise to ask: what’s the catch?

The catch is best summarized by founder Ben Lerer: “Allowing workers to drink on the job may even keep them at their desks longer… I’m fine if you are having a beer out on your desk, sticking around and doing more work and enjoying yourself doing it.”  Note his main points – being at your desk long and doing more work.

The Atlantic Wire’s Rebecca Greenfield, summarizing several articles discussing management and workplace benefits, explodes “the myth of the cool office:” in reality, extras such as free food and drink, unlimited vacation, and open office spaces are benefitting the employer rather than the employee.  In other words, they are benefits alright, but you aren’t the one benefitting.

Greenfield, quoting Bloomberg, writes, “each and every kegerator serves as a reminder of what you owe the company.”  That company beer you’re enjoying, it’s really meant to extract more work and to implicitly subjugate yourself to the firm.

As economist Milton Friedman once wrote, “there is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Or a free beer.