This video gives an overview of how Yelp’s iPad-powered kegerator works – it’s actually pretty cool if you can look past the Big Brother part.
One has to look no further than Yelp’s San Francisco offices to see that we have officially become slaves to technology. You see, there they have a kegerator full of top-notch craft beer, free for the taking. But there’s a catch – it’s guarded by an electronic overseer.
In order to pour even an ounce of the Ranger IPA or St. Bernardus Tripel they might have on tap that day, you must first use the attached iPad to log into the system and reveal your identity. From that point, every ounce you pour is recorded. Stats are kept. Leaderboards are created. Consumption is monitored….
Drinking beer and even booze is nothing new at tech startups. Many employees work late hours, and these young and hip companies want their people to see work as an extension of their homes. Want a beer with lunch? No problem. Working late coding software? Have a beer and enjoy yourself. After all, we’re all adults.
But not all companies have the same opinion of what “we’re all adults” means. In the case of Twitter and CrowdFlower, it means a fridge full of beer and wine for the taking with no one looking over your shoulder.
At Yelp it means “we’re all adults, but we’re keep track of you.” As Eric Singley, Yelp’s director of consumer and mobile products tells Bloomberg about the data the company collects on in-office drinking:
“If you’re at the top of the leader board consistently, I don’t know if that’s a place that you’d want to be. Luckily, that hasn’t really even been an issue.”
So that means they’re definitely keeping tabs on who is drinking how much, which might be a smart thing for the business to do. The Bloomberg article also quotes Robert Sutton, a professor at Stanford’s management science and engineering department, who has seen the downside to in-office imbibing:
“I’ve been involved in workplaces that can be pretty dysfunctional, where people will start drinking a little too much at lunch,” Sutton said. “There’s like a bazillion studies that show when people drink, their performance is impaired, and there’s problems with absenteeism.”
Add the increased likelihood of sexual harassment to the mix, and you can make a case for keeping a lid on things.
For many people, having your company offer free craft beer in exchange for being monitored is a trade off they’d make. After all, most of us are actually adults, and would be able to moderate our consumption so it didn’t interfere with our productivity or our ability to pilot our cars back to our houses, so who cares if the boss is counting ounces?
Well I do, that’s who. Maybe it’s my Libertarian streak, but what Yelp is doing rubs me the wrong way. Why offer free beer to employees if you don’t trust them to do the right thing?
While I love a good set of data as much as the next guy, I think monitoring your employees so closely is needlessly controlling. It shows that Yelp is the kind of place I wouldn’t want to work (even if they have free beer).
So what do you think? Would you make the trade off?