ping pong

Update (May 6, 2016): According to the Wall Street Journal, ping pong can provide answers about whether a tech bubble is coming.

In a question posed to StartupMuse, the CEO of an early-stage startup asked if it made sense to have a ping pong table? The answer was “yes” because it was good for employee morale.

In theory, ping pong and foosball tables are great ways to provide hard-working employees with a much-need break in the action. When people are working hard, it makes sense to give them opportunities to recharge.

In practice, ping pong tables are, at best, a distraction when people actually use them. At a startup client where I recently spent three days a week had a ping pong table that no one ever used. Why not? For one, everyone was too busy to play ping pong. And when they decided to take a break, it usually involved coffee or food, or both.

Ping pong falls into the same camp as Red Bull. Many startups see them as must-have perks to keep the hordes happy but, for the most party, they are unnecessary.

Startup employees don’t need ping pong tables; they need an employer who values their work, provides opportunities to learn and grow, recognizes their accomplishments and provides perks that matter (aka good salaries, bonuses, vacations and benefits).

So what about developers who apparently love playing ping pong. In working with dozens of startups? I have only been at one where developers were enthusiastic about ping pong. If a startup wants to motivate developers, I would suggest feeding them to fuel their energy.

In many respects, ping pong tables are a lazy short-cut taken by startups to foster corporate culture. It is based on the assumption that people will want to kill time in friendly competition before they get back to the grindstone. In practice, this belief is not based in reality. It’s old school thinking that doesn’t reflect an employee’s wants or needs.

What do you think? Are ping pong tables a waste of time?

More: For a counter-argument about the value of ping pong tables at startups, check out this: For a counter-argument about the value of ping pong tables at startups, check out this Business Insider story.

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