A perpetual miasma of discarded coffee grounds and freshly unpacked electronic equipment hung over the room. While not entirely pleasant, it assailed the senses with an unmistakable odor of productivity. Gareth, office manager, ran the place with an iron fist, covered by a silken glove. His philosophy was that if something could be proven to drive revenue, it was OK in his book. As such, many of his underlings counted themselves lucky to work for a company which provided free Starbucks coffee and cutting-edge Macintosh computers.
The Starbucks was perhaps his greatest managerial coup; while it was widely known that coffee consumption was a driving factor in productivity, few companies had truly studied the impact of free coffee on their bottom line. It wasn’t hard to track, though – an employee would swipe his or her access card in front of the tracking machine to get twenty ounces of modern business’ lifeblood, and the daily reports showed Gareth the number of completed projects each of his minions produced. The upshot of it all was that fifteen hyper-caffeinated man-hours typically equated to about thirty-five regular man-hours, which meant that Gareth could get a week’s worth of work out of his people in the space of two days just by providing free coffee. Even the lost time involved in people lining up at the machines was easily made up for.
The true brainwave, though, had been the big screen on the south wall, showing a map of the cube farm. In each cube appears the employee’s code name followed by an odd-looking string of characters – in the case of David Maniscalco, for example, McDave:4*$13P. Four Starbucks-es, thirteen projects. This information was there for all to see, and for all to try to beat. Gareth’s mooks could always be seen scanning the screen, then rushing to the cafeteria for more of the ebony brew, like lab rats pushing at levers to release the pleasure pellets, or reveling in an almost masturbatory glee as their numbers soared into an all-too-temporary lead.
This quarter had been the most profitable in over twenty years, and while Gareth was hardly one to engage in an orgy of self-congratulation, he allowed himself a smile and a drink as he watched the company’s stock price soar.