L’Oreal eases return to office with a $5-an-hour concierge


If you’re an employee at L’Oréal’s new West Coast headquarters in El Segundo, California, you officially have a butler—because you’re worth it.

Or perhaps more accurately, CEO David Greenberg is requiring you to be back in the office at least three days a week (you can pick which days).

The French cosmetics giant, whose subsidiaries include NYX, Kiehl’s, Maybelline, Redken, and La Roche-Posay, knows that most workers are likely unenthused about the three-days-in-the-office mandate. To ease the transition, they’ve gone many extra miles: giving workers a butler.

For just $5 an hour (a cost the company subsidizes), employees can hire a concierge to help with a range of personal chores, the Los Angeles Times reports: taking their cars to the gas station, picking up their laundry, and ferrying their dogs to and from daycare, to name a few. 

That last task may not be necessary, because the El Segundo office—once an aircraft factory—welcomes dogs. 

The concierge perk ultimately enables workers to remain physically present in the office, unencumbered by the day-to-day responsibilities that would take them away. Even sustenance is taken care of; the office sports a gym, restaurant, juice cafe, and coffee bar that occasionally serves alcohol. Plus, there’s an onsite store selling beauty products and personal care items. 

L’Oreal’s CEO, like many Fortune 500 executives, is a firm proponent of in-person work. “We’re in an industry that’s very much people-driven,” Greenberg told the LA Times. “[There is] necessary engagement, creativity, sharing, and learning from each other.’

The brand puts “a high degree of importance” on its culture, he went on, which is why he believes it’s remained an industry leader for over a century. “Culture comes from people. It’s part of the recipe.”

The other side of the culture shift

While many companies share Greenberg’s sentiments, few have joined him in actually providing the perks to employees that would make coming into the office a genuinely useful and practical experience. 

Large firms like Meta, Salesforce, Google, and Goldman Sachs have even gone the opposite direction, rolling back their perks amid economic uncertainty and a closer return to a normal workplace.

Some of these perks have been mainstays at the company since before the times. In a sharp contrast to L’Oreal, Meta discontinued its own concierge services for complimentary laundry and dry cleaning. They also curtailed the free meals cut-off they offered from 6:30 p.m. to 6 p.m.

And Bloomberg removed its longtime free office lunch perk for workers in New York, New Jersey, and California. But some of their workers are still seeing the bright side; one wrote on Glassdoor that Bloomberg’s snack bar is “unrivaled.”

Other rolled back perks were implemented early on in the pandemic to get workers back in office. In April, Goldman ended its free breakfast and lunch program for its New York employees, supplanting it with an increased “out of hours” meal stipend. Then, in September, it shuttered its free coffee station in the lobby and cut off free daily car rides to and from the office. 

“RIP to another pandemic perk for junior bankers,” a junior Goldman banker told the New York Post after the announcement. “I’m sure the partners still don’t have to pay for their coffee—or anything in their fancy dining hall.”

No matter. “For a number of employers, it seems an impossible and even fruitless task to convince employees, whose commutes are only getting longer and more expensive, that after a year of record productivity during a global pandemic, they need to get up an hour earlier and grind out a commute in exchange for a $10 sandwich,” wrote Fortune’s Paolo Confino last month.

Unless there’s a butler waiting for them, of course.

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