Temperance at Cisco

Thinking about having another soda on your 3 o'clock smoke break? If you work at Cisco Systems Inc.'s (Nasdaq: CSCO) San Jose campus, you may have seen signs that call upon your conscience to reconsider. A group inside Cisco has put up full-color, glossy posters in break rooms all over Cisco's campus, admonishing employees to help the company save money by drinking less and recycling more, sources say.

Like other big companies (especially in Silicon Valley), Cisco provides free bottled water, coffee, sodas, and fruit drinks for its employees (see A Return to the Kitchenentals). Now that the economy's hugging the commode, however, Cisco and its peers are discovering that such perks add up fast when one multiplies a few cents per soda by tens of thousands of employees.

(Another increasingly popular -- and daring -- cost-cutting measure being pursued by some Silicon Valley companies, such as Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW) and Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP): encouraging employees to take time off without pay.)

To nudge folks in the right direction, Cisco has printed and hung signs (on recycled paper?) that encourage conservation. The signs in Cisco's break rooms ask employees to "drink frugally" and "drink responsibly," sources say.

And don't operate heavy equipment.

According to a Cisco correspondent, one sign, with an accompanying chart, explains that each worker taking one less cold beverage per day could save Cisco more than $2 million annually.

The problem: In a corporation that traditionally has avoided luxuriant excess, some Cisco insiders feel that the signs add insult to injury, especially in light of recent budget cuts.

"In my group, people have been laid off, there are no raises for anyone this year, most employee stock options are under water, we have been moved from reasonable-sized cubes to mini-cubes, funding for training and supplies has been cut, meeting room sizes have been cut in half, etc. All are arguably reasonable actions, but it hasn't been good for morale," writes one employee.

To help ease the sting of such corporate crackdowns, some Cisco folks have put up a Web site that pokes fun at -- but doesn't protest -- the signs. The site, which was recently spotlighted on F*ckedCompany.com, suggests some other cutbacks, such as washing only one hand after using the restroom.

"I was just trying to lighten things up," writes one of the site's authors in an email to Light Reading. "Of course I would rather pay for drinks than try to find a new job."

The thirst suppressant signs are just an isolated -- and perhaps extreme -- example in a series of several internal adverts that encourage frugality at Cisco. In fact, Cisco employees contacted by Light Reading praise their employer for not being "draconian" in response to California's ongoing energy crisis. "They set the thermostat a few degrees higher and told us we could wear shorts -- mostly common sense stuff," says one Cisco worker.

"There are signs all over Cisco that encourage employees to act frugally in various ways," says a Cisco spokesperson contacted for this story. "So write frugally."


- Phil Harvey, Senior Editor, Light Reading
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flanker 12/4/2012 | 7:54:24 PM
re: Temperance at Cisco Cisco's problem isnt the oj, its the bloated sales staff.

downreading 12/4/2012 | 7:54:23 PM
re: Temperance at Cisco And play a little less games...
_____ 12/4/2012 | 7:54:23 PM
re: Temperance at Cisco And people wonder why the stock is in the frugal $hitter?

Maybe the 40 hour per week employee's should work a little harder and complain a little less...
_____ 12/4/2012 | 7:54:22 PM
re: Temperance at Cisco This message was posted on the Cisco Frugal home page (cemments section) mentioned in this article:

22. "Keep the janitors from calling the mother country and save 200K /month"

Pretty low if you ask me. Bet the janitors have been more productive than the cisco employee's.


======= 12/4/2012 | 7:54:21 PM
re: Temperance at Cisco Being a member of the bottom 0.05%, I need to be told on a minute-by-minute basis as to what I need to do. If it were not for the reminders I put in Outlook (e.g.: inhale/exhale, eat, etc) I might have had to go work at Noretell.
whose 12/4/2012 | 7:54:20 PM
re: Temperance at Cisco recycle packets
egowatcher 12/4/2012 | 7:54:20 PM
re: Temperance at Cisco What Cisco is doing makes sense! If all those who drink free soda and juice and other stuff look at their personal budget or behavior with their own personal money, I know that you would find that most of them are frugal and sacrifice soda and juice for water to save a few pennies. Budget crunch applies to every thing including a business entity. Look at all the Hondas on San Tomas and 880 and 101. Why did not they all go for BMW, MB and LExus?
optical_guy 12/4/2012 | 7:54:19 PM
re: Temperance at Cisco I don't know what kind of environment you folks think you are talking about. I don't work at Cisco, but I have worked in telecom for the last 12 years....just what 40 hour work weeks are you folks talking about.

Let's look at it from the employees point of view....remember them, the folks who did not necessarily have a say in the billions and billions that Cisco spent on non-productive acquisitions. Who did not run up enough inventory to choke the economy of an average third world country. These are the folks who built the company, they are the ones that will suck up the hard times and cut backs, and you want to begrudge them a free soda at 10:00pm in the office and tell them to work harder.

Please....you want to bang someone at Cisco, try their exec.s
horse of a different color 12/4/2012 | 7:54:18 PM
re: Temperance at Cisco As a former Cisco employee who ended up on the chopping block, I saw a question to the execs prior to the big layoff about cutting out the free drinks as a cost-cutting measure. The answer was a distinct NO... they didn't want to impact the "Cisco culture".

I don't know about you, but the fact that they were willing to keep the free drinks at the expense of laying off good people in a VERY bad job market still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
tsat 12/4/2012 | 7:54:18 PM
re: Temperance at Cisco oh please!

Maybe you are working too hard to notice,
but there is a massive disparity between
the tech-worker Haves, and the tech-worker
Have Nots.

Cisco has made some people very rich.
And how do they repay the not-so-rich folks
who dedicate their very lives to the continuing
success of the company?

Cutback on sodas?.

Why doesn't Chambers cash in .5% of his
options and start the Free Soda Foundation?
Sounds like a worthy cause to me...

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