(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
Don’t you hate it when you’re on a plane and the guy sitting next to you takes off his shoes? Gross. Unfortunately, it seems to happen all too often. In fact, taking off your shoes in public is not only becoming more common, it’s becoming a new employee perk among startups and other young firms in Silicon Valley.
When I graduated college and went to work for a big accounting firm, suits and ties were required every day. I am definitely showing my age. That’s because, according to a report from Business Insider, more and more firms are letting their employees walk around their offices shoeless – even (double-gross) sockless – in order to create a more comfortable work environment for those young and fickle workers who they’re looking to attract.
But wait – aren’t all those stinky, smelly feet creating a health violation? Apparently not. At least, not in Silicon Valley. A San Francisco department of public health spokesperson confirmed this to Business Insider.
Having to put up with people’s feet while on the job may be a disgusting proposition for some. But these are different times and I’m trying to keep an open mind. The fact is that finding and keeping good employees is every small business owner’s biggest problem this year and it’s expected to be the same through next year. Unfortunately, we can’t afford to offer the salaries and benefits that so many other well-funded companies can provide and that means we’re potentially missing out on good workers. Allowing our people to go shoeless around the office, as gross as it is, is certainly a cheap perk. So maybe this isn’t such a bad idea.
The shoeless policy is common at two companies featured in the Business Insider article, human resources tech firm Gusto and productivity platform Notion. The CEOs of both firms – Joshua Reeves and Ivan Zhao – admit they grew up in shoeless households and because of that they strive to create a comfortable, relaxed atmosphere for both their employees and visitors while in their offices.
If you’re thinking of doing this in your business, here are a few tips from other companies that have already established a foothold (get it?) like Gusto and Notion. Have a central cubby area for shoes, so people aren’t tripping over them in the corridors. Encourage wearing slippers and socks, where possible. Keep the place clean. Invite your guests to do the same. Offer company-branded socks to visitors and employees. My two cents: stock up on Dr Scholl’s.
It’s clearly a sign of the times that businesses – in order to create that special work environment which attracts good people – must now consider shoeless offices. I’m not going to begrudge a small business owner for considering the same. But one thing’s for sure: I’m really happy that the employees at my virtual company all work from home.