Pivotal, a $2.8 billion startup, is offering breakfast at 9:06am to all of its employees. Sounds like an acceptable benefit for a successful San Francisco software company? Or does it sound a bit early? Not it wasn’t a typo.
For this exact reason Pivotal has made breakfast a punctual event, serving no later than 9:06am, so that its engineer employees get to work on time. Rob Mee, Pivotal’s CEO, noticed that many of his talented engineers were arriving to work at 10 or 11am in the morning and were very unproductive with their time before lunch.
The generous breakfast offered at 9am motivates the same staff to get to work an hour earlier, get fed, and be more productive throughout the day. And it is a breakfast worth getting out of bed for. The food includes eggs, sausage, fruit and lots of other treats you wouldn’t even find in your hotel buffet.
This is not just one of the perks, this is a clever technique to make startup employees work harder in the best hours of the day. Though the story of how it became 9:06am is more interesting than why it first started.
Pivotal executives have used this bargaining tool as a sweetener for the mandatory 9am meetings they have requested from their employees. If you don’t turn up for the meeting it is likely to be noticed, but at least you have a premium breakfast to look forward to and wake you up in the morning. Initially the meeting was set for 9am, though since many employees felt stressed about getting in late due to traffic in their commute, the meeting was then moved to 9:05am.
This 5 minute addition didn’t seem to calm the anxious engineers, so they moved the meeting one minute later to 9:06am, which seemed to work for everyone. From that day, 9:06am meetings are a daily occurrence in the Pivotal office, and it appears that everyone is satisfied with the compromise.
Many startups, from early stage to fully funded, have always battled with employment management. There is a fine line between being an open free for all company, and one that enables their employees to operate at their best for the company needs. Many startups offer lunch coupons and stocked fridges as part of the perks of employment. However, the breakfast idea is much more logical from a productivity perspective as you can make sure your employees arrive on time and get a decent start to their day with a full stomach.
If more startups take on this approach, rather than squeezing every drop of motivation from their staff without giving back, we might be seeing a lot more successful startups and less work related stress problems.
Who knows, maybe we can get government approval for free breakfast in every workplace to improve employee health. Now that would make you get up from bed in the morning, right?