As you my know, I recently began working for a new company, HUGE in Los Angeles. HUGE is a great place to work for a lot of reasons, but one of the best reasons is that the company gives employees their birthdays off! Since mine is coming up this weekend, I have been thinking a lot about how this is not only a great idea for employees, but makes a lot of business sense as well. Let me break it down.
Conventional birthday party
At most other companies I’ve worked, when a person’s birthday comes around the following occurs…
- A shitty ice cream cake is ordered ($)
- Perhaps a card is passed around the office (this usually stresses me out and takes me a long time to come up with something to say)
- People gather in the kitchen (sometimes reluctantly), sing happy birthday (sometimes embarrassing the birthday boy/girl), and eat cake (fat!)
The emotional benefits of this approach range from awkward to marginally exciting at best. It’s hard to put an exact number on it, but all of this activity will probably take about 15 minutes. That’s 15 minutes per person per birthday. In other words…
Hp = (n * t) * n
Where Hp is the total office hours spent partying every year, n is the number of employees, and t is the time spent for each birthday.
Paid time off for birthdays
When you have a day off of work, one person is very happy for the day and nobody else is affected. Everyone wins. The time spent is 8 hours for one person per birthday. Or…
Hv = n * 8
Hv being the total office hours spent vacationing every year.
Notice anything about these two functions?
The party function is exponential, O(n^2), while the vacation function is linear, O(n).That means that the more employees you have the more expensive it is to throw a party while with vacation time, you have a fixed price per employee for birthdays.
HUGE LA has about 90 employees. When we compare the two formulae, we get these results.
Hp = (90 * .25) * 90 = 2025 hours
Hv = 90 * 8 = 720 hours
Vacation time is about 1/3 as many resources as birthday parties. Of course, for smaller numbers of employees, birthday parties are actually more efficient than days off. If we reduce the inequality…
Hp < Hv
(n * t) * n < n * 8
(n * t) < 8
The magic point where parties are cheaper than vacations is when
(n * t) < 8. So if party time, t, is 15 minutes, that number is 32 employees,
(32 * .25) = 8.
Some offices combine all the birthdays into one party for all the birthdays in a given week. This changes the equation to
Hp <= (52 * t)
…which is linear but also only provides less than 10 minutes per week for partying before you’re better off giving vacation time. It also doesn’t help much for offices with under 40 or so employees. An even better plan would be to have one party per month for all of the birthdays in that month. That would give you roughly 40 minutes of uninterrupted cake-hole stuffing per party!
But regardless of the time, what adult would rather eat cake than take a day off of work!? Forward this to your boss.