I’m looking at you, Gift Horse

a wall of snack food, mostly sugarey
I have to avoid this. All. Day. Which turns into “avoid the office”.

I’m going to say something that might be controversial, or hard to understand for some folks but it’s getting to the point where I’m starting to stay away from the office more than I’d like to so here goes:

The snacks. The never-ending supply that I would *never* eat otherwise. That I would not go to a corner store and purchase. I really wish they were gone. I wish that we, people who all make salaries above that needed for living decently, were accountable for buying and bringing in our own snacks as we chose. Keep them at your desk, share with nearby co-workers, I would love to see this. It would be so much better for me if the only things we had in the kitchen were fruit and veg. Milk for coffee, sure.

When I first started working for Mozilla, as a working class grew up broke kid, I was floored by all the free stuff & free food. I lived off it as an intern to save money. I appreciated it. It made me feel cared for. Now it’s like a trap. A constant test of my ability to make “good” decisions for myself 250 times a day. Often I fail. Failure makes me stay away from the office as an attempt to cope. Staying away from the office causes loss of connection with you all.

I suspect there might be feelings of being ‘punished’ if the snacks were less abundant (or even gone) because we’re used to all these ‘perks’ in our tech offices. It’s not something most offices (outside of tech industry) have and I would encourage a perspective shift towards accountability, recognizing the privileges we *already* have even without free all-day snacks, and thinking about what it means if some people have to choose to stay away.  Considering the origin of these snacks is from a startup mentality where workers were expected to be pulling really long hours without getting up, out, or going home.  Is that really what we want to promote and call a perk?

13 thoughts on “I’m looking at you, Gift Horse

  1. They don’t suck energy out of me, but
    no unhealthy snacks > mostly unhealthy snacks
    imho. Same applies to sugary drinks, etc.

  2. In the Auckland office we collectively decided not to have any snacks other than fruit.

  3. I would be quite amenable to a change in the snack situation… to healthy options (I would include greek yogurt, and maybe cheese/nuts/hummus, but mostly, yeah, fruit/veg) it is indeed a challenging thing, and its not like there aren’t a vast array of itinerant goodies that come through on top of the always available ones!

  4. Roc that is great info to have. I’m going to work on a proposal to the entire SF office and see how willing people are to shake the status quo.

  5. My workplace has a similar situation, but right next to the unhealthy snacks (chips, cookies), we have healthy snacks (granola, fruit leather, nuts).

  6. As was pointed out on Yammer, it’s easier for us because we’re small. We also don’t need to compete with Silicon Valley free-food culture. But I wish you success, since it would definitely make my visits to the Bay Area more healthy :-).

  7. I wish the argument for changing or eliminating office snacks centered around cost, desire to encourage healthy work/life balance (maybe it’s not a bad thing if you have to go home to eat!), allergies, and choice (if you pay me more, I can buy the snacks I prefer). Calling certain foods “bad” or “unhealthy” kind of plays into shaming and healthism in an uncool way.

    I can sympathize with this position because when I was at Mozilla, I often found that I would eat food I wouldn’t normally eat if I had to buy it for myself, because it was there, and convenient. (Especially if I was sleep-deprived.) But I think it’s possible to make the case for changing or cutting back on snacks without language that casts particular types of food as bad (which, in this culture at least, implies a value judgment on the people who eat those types of food).

  8. Tim, that’s more the angle I am intending to take here. There is a cost for me and that is a lack of connection and feeling driven away from the office because of my own choices (and challenges) around food. I don’t really care what other people eat (why should I?) but I do care that the over abundance of snacks is seemingly cost-free and that’s not true. It also does come from a root thinking of “we want you to stay put as long as possible” which is very startup, but isn’t (or shouldn’t be) very Mozilla. I hear people in other forums where this is discussed saying important things like “when i travel i need something at the office” and at the same time “I prefer the non-healthy snacks”. What I might propose when starting this discussion with our particular location is: Could we make *most* snacks cost something, even a quarter, to put a slight barrier up for getting them, could we have *less* selection, could we consider that people who get paid mostly in the high 5’s and 6 figures might be able to buy their own varieties of whatever they want to eat?

  9. Rather than make most snacks cost something I would think you’d want to move to all snacks cost something. In this way you avoid sorting types of foods, and food users, in a good vs bad light.

    If instead of adding a cost you hide certain foods (as per discussion in another forum) you’d possibly want to hide all foods for the same reason.

  10. Hi Lukas!

    Having been at other uber tech offices, I think Mozilla’s have the right balance between “overdone” and “totally imbalanced”.

    My case might probably be very unique, but I don’t usually have an issue with not eating the things. I am quite disciplined, maybe.

    I would also say that they are certainly very convenient for our office (London) due to the way we operate with sort of late-ish meetings with PST people. The most common scenario for me to grab a snack is when it’s late in the afternoon and I’m hungry between meetings with “the Californians” but don’t have the time or the will to roam outside and grab something to eat. At that time of the day, whatever I can buy outside in nearby newsagents would be more expensive and less healthy (yay for healthy snacks bought in volume!). Picture one of those typical British newsagents with their massive array of cadbury’s “chocolates” on display. That is the sort of snacks we can buy.

    Also with regards to what’s healthy and what’s not: I’d leave that up to each office to decide.

    Rest assured that I of course appreciate having them, after many years of that not being the case in my previous jobs.

  11. The snacks. The never-ending supply that I would *never* eat otherwise. That I would not go to a corner store and purchase. I really wish they were gone.

    Without meaning to sound too blunt, why don’t you just not eat them? I recognise that you’re saying it’s not that easy and that willpower is all too readily worn down, but I think you should change your perspective here. To me it seems that you’re seeing this as a problem, whereas I think you should see it as an opportunity. There’s an opportunity here to develop stronger will and firmer resolve. Take that opportunity.

    I’m not speaking entirely without experience. My thing is that I have a chronic illness. It’s not as though I will die any time soon, but my illness has turned out to be a significant disability. I look at people I know around my age and they’re all building lives for themselves and achieving things that I simply am not (marriage, buying a house, having kids, etc). For a while there my perspective was bleak. The reality is that things still are bleak, but latterly I have made an effort to change my perspective and that has helped.

    Maybe read some Nietzsche. His view was that he actively wished difficulties on his friends as he felt that being faced with these things and overcoming them would ultimately be beneficial. For me, I found Seneca useful. His idea is that fortune should always be kept at arm’s length. That way, bad fortune will never affect you too much.

    Try Alain de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy. It’s a good summary of a variety of philosopher’s ideas on dealing with difficulties. I found it useful.

  12. I do plenty of ‘work’ on myself and that’s not the main point of my piece here. There are good days with willpower and I can have plenty of discipline. I’m more interested in the way this has ultimately turned the office into a place to avoid sometimes rather than even have to think about it at all. I can be much more productive at home. Also there are other issues that I’m interested in like looking at how we, as an office, could examine our relationships to work-provided snacks with intention and consider all the implications of environment, privilege, excess, compassion for people’s various needs vs. wants (or will take if it’s there) and how we could potentially make different decisions on purpose instead of just letting this area of our office culture sit unquestioned.

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