So much for the war on Googler entitlement. Amid heated competition for engineers, Google is trying a remarkable new perk: free use of "runners" to clean apartments, take out trash, cook dinner, run errands—whatever is needed.
Googlers are being provided with credits on TaskRabbit, an online service that brokers odd jobs in five major cities. Recent job listings on the site include "Fold Laundry and Put it Away," "Cook dinner for 2," "assemble four items from Ikea," "standard wash and fold: 3 loads," "dispose of Ikea bead," "Pick up and deliver cake," and "walk a dog." The perk, presumably, only applies to Google workers who live in one of the five metropolitan regions TaskRabbit serves, including New York and the San Francisco Bay Area.
TaskRabbit founder Leah Busque wouldn't get into specific details, like whether Google has put a dollar limit on how much it will pay toward any one job, or whether the benefit is permanent. But she did confirm to us that "Googlers are enjoying TaskRabbit as a sponsored service," adding:
We are working with other companies to roll out the deal to their employees as well. The perks are obvious - employees get the extra help they need and some work life balance, while companies get happy and loyal employees that are more focused on their work (without the stresses of the "little" stuff). Popular posts by people include taking shoes to the cobbler, getting Ikea furniture assembled, bags of donations picked up, and groceries delivered.
It is a competitive market to keep employees happy, and TaskRabbit as a perk helps to differentiate one work environment from another.
She's right about the job market. Tech companies in recent months have reported a shortage of programmers as they snap up more and more talent. Google and Facebook are competing so fiercely over some engineers that half-million-dollar retention bonuses are not unheard of. And they're not the only ones vying for talent; flush with venture capital, Twitter is on a hiring spree, as are Amazon, Foursquare, Zynga and other startups.
This explains why Google's late 2009 effort to "reset the culture" of entitlement at the company and to "significantly cut down" on free food and other cushy perks has been decisively thwarted: Google is a maturing public company whose stock growth has slowed, and perks and work-life balance are among the best ways the company can distinguish itself from startups like Facebook that offer, in exchange for long hours, the possibility of getting rich on an IPO jackpot.
Aiding the perk providers is the low cost of non-tech labor. Overall unemployment remains high at 9.6 percent. That's why, as TaskRabbit's job board makes clear, there are still plenty of people out there willing to do the low-paying jobs Silicon Valley's privileged classes can't be bothered with.