Return to office: from free coffee to job threats

Our latest WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing looks at the demise of the office perk for workplace returners, a new sustainable office tower in Adelaide, and our upcoming conference on wellbeing

Just as workers have become accustomed to those lightly veiled bribes that their employers have offered to encourage a return to the office, it appears that now they have an expiration date.

After a summer in which employers have struggled to get their workers back in the office, the autumn’s colder economic outlook and tightening labour market is bringing a more no-nonsense approach to returning to the workplace.

Unsurprisingly, it is Goldman Sachs – among the first big employers to mandate people back to the office five days a week – which has signalled the switch: it has revoked its offer of free coffee in September. An article by Fortune magazine commented that sources at the bank said that it has ‘far stronger tools than coffee to get people back into the office anyhow: the threat of being fired.’

Goldman Sachs, which announced this week that jobs are under threat in London, is in good company. Its peer Morgan Stanley revoked the perks of free tickets to the US Open tennis championship, which were once available to top performers at the bank. And Meta has announced that it is getting rid of free services like laundry and dry cleaning in the office and plans on pushing back its free dinner offering from 6pm to 6:30pm.

Is this the end of all free food and perks as an incentive to return to the workplace?

‘Employers are growing tired of indulging their workforce with free perks…’

It seems like many large organisations have grown tired of infantilising and indulging their workers with free and subsidised amenities to force them to return to the office. Instead, new tactics are emerging such as designing workplace experiences which are superior to the experience in an employee’s home.

Perhaps companies were naïve to think that free coffee and pizza would bring people back, but revoking such perks now is certainly not helping the case for the office as an attractive place to work – especially when coupled with mandates and threats. While such perks may appear superficial, they go a long way to making employees feel valued. If the trend is to start revoking them, organisations better come armed with alternative strategies. If not, they might pay a heavy price in employee retention.

Hitting sustainability firsts

If offering perks isn’t the way to get employees back to the office, perhaps having a workplace in one of the most sustainable buildings in the world is just the incentive employees need. That’s exactly what developers Cbus Property and architects Woods Bagot have achieved in a new office building which is destined to seal several firsts for Adelaide, Australia.

The building is the first all-electric, carbon-neutral-ready building, the first Platinum WELL v2 pilot pre-certified building, and the first commercial and retail mixed-use building that will not use natural gas. The building, 83 Pirie Street, has now reached practical completion and the A-grade commercial space spans 30,000 square metres across 22 levels.

The Government of South Australia’s Department for Infrastructure and Transport will be the anchor tenant, consolidating its several city locations into one.

Making work sustainable

While big leaps are being made to improve the sustainability credential of our offices, the same also needs to be done for our working lives. Louise Dyrendahl of EY will explain the importance of maintaining a sustainable work-life at an upcoming WORKTECH22 Wellbeing conference on Tuesday 20 September at 125 Finsbury Pavement in London.

The conference will host over 15 speakers who will share their unique perspectives about how to implement the different facets of employee wellbeing into workplace strategy, especially as work becomes more flexible. Join us at WORKTECH Wellbeing and purchase your ticket here.

Find exclusive content in the


Premium content for Global Partners, Corporate and Community Members.
The latest analysis and commentary on the future of work and workplace in five distinct themes: Research & Insights, Case Studies, Expert Interviews, Trend Publications, and Technology Guides.