Staff’s morale at Meta rises with resumption of its perks

Company representatives wear branded T-shirts at the Meta Platforms Inc. area on the opening day of the MWC Barcelona at the Fira de Barcelona venue in Barcelona, Spain, on Monday, Feb. 28, 2022. Over 1,800 exhibitors and attendees from 183 countries will attend the annual event, which runs from Feb. 28 to March 3. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Angel Garcia

Meta Platforms employees are slowly starting to enjoy coming into the office more, bouncing back from a morale crisis that set in after 20,000 of their teammates were laid off over the past year. One reason: the company has revived a number of popular pre-pandemic perks, from branded T-shirts to happy hours.

Workers have spent most of the year fearing for their jobs during rolling cuts. Productivity slowed because employees were unsure what to work on, or if they should be working at all. Employees that survived the layoffs were sad that their friends were no longer at the company, and that the perquisites -- the little extras that made work fun -- were reduced, multiple current and former workers said.

Now, entire divisions of Meta, which owns Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, are ordering their branded T-shirts again, something that wouldn't have been considered worth the expense in the past eight months during Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg's declared "year of efficiency." One employee said they view this as a positive sign about the company's performance after two-straight quarters beating Wall Street's expectations on profits and revenue. Meta has also started rehiring some workers who were previously laid off, said other employees, who asked to remain anonymous discussing workplace conditions.

At the company's Menlo Park, Calif., headquarters, most restaurants have reopened after their pandemic closures. Dinnertime, which used to be later in the evening, has been moved up to 6 p.m., employees said. Laundry services and haircuts are also back, Thursday happy hours are taking place and unique vendors have set up food stands -- 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 bringing back amenities as employees return to the office. Other perks never left. "Dinner, happy hour and company swag never really went away, merely adjusted given the pandemic and budgets," the spokesperson said.

Staff members aren't just noticing that perks exist, but that they seem to be supported -- a contrast from last fall, when Meta's snack bars started to look suspiciously bare, they said.

At headquarters, La Croix, the sparkling beverage tinged with fruit "essence" that's favored by millennials, started to run out in office refrigerators.

When workers first started noticing the sparser selections, Meta's stock was posting the worst performance in its history. Investors weren't buying into Zuckerberg's vision for virtual reality, and advertisers had tightened their budgets. The depressing snack bars presaged a bigger move: Meta's first major job cut, of 13% of its workforce, or 11,000 employees.

Then in March, Zuckerberg announced that more layoffs were coming, without saying exactly who would be let go, leaving the staff on edge. The company made a series of cuts in April and then again in May, reducing its workforce by another 10,000 employees, while closing 5,000 open roles. The drawn-out nature of the firings added to the anxious atmosphere as employees wondered whether they would lose their jobs or have to say goodbye to the people they were planning future projects with. Other major tech firms announced hiring freezes and layoffs of their own, making the idea of entering the job market scarier.

Now, months after the latest layoffs, Meta employees are more eager to bond and plan with one another. The vibe is much more positive and the mood is better, said one worker, who is most excited about dinnertime coming back.

Another, who left the company recently, said they liked a free coffee shop that opened -- a new perk that wasn't there before the layoffs.