Happy hours, corporate swag and haircuts: Meta morale gets a boost after layoffs

The social media giant’s employees say perks are back after all the job cuts

Employees at Meta Platforms Inc. are gradually regaining their enthusiasm for coming to work, bouncing back from a morale crisis that arose after 20,000 of their coworkers were laid off in the previous year. One reason is that the company has brought back a number of popular pre-pandemic perks, such as branded T-shirts and happy hours.

Workers have spent the majority of the year fearing for their jobs as a result of rolling layoffs.Employee productivity slowed because they were unsure what to work on or if they should work at all. Employees who survived the layoffs were saddened that their friends were no longer at the company, and that perquisites — the little extras that made work fun — had been reduced, according to multiple current and former employees.

Now, entire divisions of Meta, which owns Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, are ordering branded T-shirts again, something that would not have been considered worthwhile in the previous eight months, during CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s declared “year of efficiency.” After two consecutive quarters of exceeding Wall Street’s profit and revenue expectations, one employee sees this as a positive sign for the company’s performance. Meta has also begun rehiring some previously laid-off employees, according to other employees who asked to remain anonymous when discussing workplace conditions.

Most restaurants at the company’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters have reopened following pandemic closures. Employees reported that dinnertime, which used to be later in the evening, has been moved up to 6 p.m. Laundry and haircut services have also returned, as have Thursday happy hours and food stands set up by unique vendors, making it more appealing to show up in person now that in-office work is required three days a week.

A Meta spokesperson confirmed that the company is reintroducing amenities as employees return to work. Other benefits remained. “Dinner, happy hour, and company swag never really went away; they were just adjusted due to the pandemic and budgets,” a spokesperson said.

Employees are not only noticing that perks exist, but that they appear to be supported — a stark contrast to last fall, when Meta’s snack bars appeared suspiciously bare, they said. La Croix, the sparkling beverage tinged with fruit “essence” that millennials prefer, began to run out in office fridges.

When workers first noticed the fewer options, Meta’s stock was experiencing its worst performance in history. Investors were skeptical of Zuckerberg’s vision for virtual reality, and advertisers had reduced their spending. Meta’s first major layoff, of 13% of its workforce, or 11,000 employees, was preceded by the depressing snack bars.

Then, in March, Zuckerberg announced more layoffs, without specifying who would be let go, putting employees on edge. In April and May, the company made a series of cuts, reducing its workforce by 10,000 employees and closing 5,000 open positions. The length of the firings added to the anxiety, as employees wondered whether they would lose their jobs or have to say goodbye to the people with whom they were planning future projects. Other major tech firms announced hiring freezes and layoffs, making the prospect of entering the job market even scarier.

Meta employees are more eager to bond and plan with one another now, months after the most recent layoffs. According to one worker, who is most excited about the return of dinnertime, the vibe is much more positive and the mood is much better. Another employee who recently left the company said they liked the new free coffee shop, which was not available prior to the layoffs.

Meta’s morale has always been closely related to the company’s stock performance, which has more than doubled this year to an 18-month high, thanks in part to Zuckerberg’s “efficiency” mandate and AI push. Meta predicted that sales would increase by double digits in the current quarter.

However, Meta is still facing some existential threats: user and revenue growth at its flagship social networks has stalled; Zuckerberg’s virtual reality efforts continue to drain resources; and progress in artificial intelligence is costly and in its early stages.

Meta’s cost-cutting efforts are still visible. Certain benefits aren’t as good as they were before the layoffs, according to employees.For example, Meta’s laundry service used to be free, but the company now charges a fee. Some employees claim the food isn’t as good. According to the employees, some roles are still being cut or are not being filled when people leave.

According to one of the workers, if the company pivots again and conducts another large layoff, all progress toward restoring morale will be lost. But for the time being, there’s plenty of La Croix to go around.

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