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Techies' homes are their castles

A new poll finds that the most popular fringe benefits for technology professionals are telecommuting aids such as subsidized home PCs and Internet access.

Technology workers want freebies that set them free.

That's the conclusion of a new survey to be released Wednesday by Techies.com, which polled 1,000 technology professionals on their preferred perks. The Minneapolis-based career Web site found that the most popular fringe benefits were telecommuting aids such as subsidized home PCs and Internet access.

Techies also want their companies to spring for membership to local spas or health clubs. A free car and wireless phone rounded out the survey's top five perks. At the bottom of the list were game rooms and free haircuts.

Techies.com asked people to rank a list of 40 benefits, ranging from the relatively common company-issued wireless phone to more esoteric freebies such as complimentary movie passes and onsite laundry services.

The list--among the first of its kind focused exclusively on technology workers--did not include see related story: Employees may demand cash vs. stocks financial perks such as stock options or annual bonuses. Nor did it include ubiquitous benefits such as health care or 401(k) retirement plans, which are considered standards for noncontract employees in the high-paid technology sector.

Participants ranged from entry-level Web programmers to system administrators for Internet start-ups and chief technology officers at major corporations--a broad cross-section of Techies.com's 625,000 registered users.

Doug Berg, founder of Techies.com, said the survey is definitive proof that techies are not cubicle dwellers by nature.

"Techies are quite creative people; they look at themselves as code artists," Berg said. "When they get inspired, they need to act on it, in the middle of the night or on the bus or metro and...in unusual situations."

Berg theorized that a techie's yearning to escape the office is deeper than a means of avoiding corporate politics or an incessantly ringing phone. Rather, it's a way of being more productive during the day and feeling they've accomplished something career-wise and socially.

Leave 'em in peace
According to researchers at Gartner, as much as 65 percent of all technology projects go unfinished--typically because new projects assume urgent priority. Frustrated, many techies get thrown into new tasks and often feel little sense of accomplishment or completion.

Home free
Techies value telecommuting and subsidized access.
 Top 5

Percentage*
Discounted/free home PCs/equipment 36%
Discounted/free home Internet access 23%
Spa/health club memberships 21%
Automobile 17%
Mobile phone/wireless 17%

 Bottom 5

Percentage*  
Free laundry/drycleaning 2%
Sports lessons (ski, golf, tennis, etc.) 2%
Dancing lessons 1%
Free hair cuts/styling 1%
Game/rec room 1%
 *multiple answers allowed.
Telecommuting may help ease that frustration, Berg said. Instead of getting sidetracked by a boss cruising the office looking for help on a different project, telecommuting requires the employer and employee to focus on one project--at least for a day. That's why Berg called techies' telecommuting tendency "a call to balance and wellness."

"Working from home is not just removal of a commute," he said. "It's, 'I'm more productive here, I'm not interrupted here, I can be a better person if I'm working from my house.'"

The popularity of telecommuting aids should come as no surprise to human resource specialists and recruiters, who have seen the trend take off as more people communicate by videoconferencing and email.

More than 137 million U.S. residents will be telecommuting by 2003, according to Gartner. The International Telework Association & Council estimates that one in five will work at home at least one day per week within the next year.

No time for games
But employers may be surprised to find out that at least one high-tech office icon--the foosball table--did not score with techies. Foosball, ping-pong, billiards and other rec-room staples ranked at the bottom of the list--even lower than free dance lessons.

Techies were also neutral on company-sponsored memberships to swanky golf clubs, which they rated only marginally higher than company-funded massages and facials. Although golf clubs are the domain of polished executives and remain an international symbol that an executive has truly arrived, most techies could take it or leave it.

Techies' ambivalence on game room and golf gimmicks may be rooted in their quest for accomplishment and project completion, Berg speculated.

"When all your employees are playing foosball, it's pretty frustrating," Berg said. "Even employees get lost playing too much 'Doom' and not getting their projects done."

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