“Rest and Vest” might just be the worst-kept secret in Silicon Valley. Also known as “coasters”, these are institutional employees, usually senior engineers at big tech companies like Google and Facebook/Meta, who are easy going and hang around on corporate rooftops shooting the breeze with their mates. collecting a 7 figure salary and an even healthier stock.
The narrative of Fat Cat technology gained comic notoriety when HBO’s “Silicon Valley” made a bit of it. In the show, Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti gets promoted at tech giant Hooli, the fictional company inspired by Google. Bighetti has not been assigned any projects and instead chooses to waste his days with his colleagues, getting rich while doing nothing.
How rest and the female gender became a thing
It’s not just fiction. Reports and interviews with real, actual coasters like Google, Meta, and Microsoft say it happens more often than you think. “My days would start at 11 and I’d have big lunches,” laughed one former Googler.
It’s happening, others say, because tech behemoths can afford it — at least until now. With bottomless pockets, these organizations were able to hire or promote the hot shots in emerging fields like artificial intelligence and quantum computing, and not expect them to work the normal 40+ hours. It’s a “defensive measure” because you prefer to keep top talent, even if it means they don’t hold up their end of the deal.
Coasters will not coast
Google was the place for resters-and-vesters. But it sounds like it will come to an end. At Vox Media’s code conference last week, Pichai revisited Google’s plan to find efficiencies where it can, citing its plan for a “simplicity sprint” and even discussing a possible headcount reduction of up to 20 percent.
With recessions and inflationary pressures looming, there is growing concern about slower growth and intense competition. At the conference, Pichai talked about TikTok and other entrants into the Chinese market. Things they didn’t have to think about two years ago are suddenly real issues for the big guns.
There will be a number of solutions put in place to find efficiencies and address this financial center of the city. One approach might simply be a concerted effort to uncover the rest-and-vesters and appeal to them. Or get rid of them altogether.
How will employees react?
But I say, easier said than done. Pichai and other senior leaders should proceed with caution. People with a militarized productivity tracking system could easily backfire. People don’t like to be measured and monitored so intensely, especially when their work is knowledge-based. They do not create widgets. They create ideas.
The devil is in the details of the messages. Change must be framed in two ways. First, it’s about fairness and leveling the playing field. Equity is now part of any good D&I strategy. Reminding a person that their derogatory contribution is unequal can motivate them to pull their weight. We have a deep aversion to being perceived by others as a fraud or a renegade.
Second, it’s about belonging, also a piece of the D&I puzzle. We are human at the end of the day. No man wants to be a social outcast, even the one who is talented. Contributing, belonging, building alongside your fellow creators – this can be a powerful motivator to get people involved more evenly.
Google and others will have their work cut out for them in creating a new norm for what it means to work for such an organization. In the end, it’s probably a good thing that the secret of rest and possession has been revealed.