“Why take the form of a subsidy? Couldn’t the Harik brothers simply pay their employees an extra six grand a year, and verbally encourage them to live nearby? They could, of course, but they’ve chosen to implement this behavioral experiment. Economists have found that many people simply make poor choices about housing and commutes, choices that may result in more money in the bank, but decreased happiness. “They tend to overvalue the material fruits of their commute—money, house, prestige—and to undervalue what they’re giving up: sleep, exercise, fun,” wrote Nick Paumgarten in the New Yorker of that seven-hour commuter . So the Hariks engage in what some behavioral economists call “libertarian paternalism,” creating incentive structures towards healthy behavior, while allowing the freedom to eschew it.
It’s a philosophy made manifest in several other ways around the Imo office: the pair of walking treadmills (with laptop-ready tables) , the forthcoming standing desks, the catered food presenting healthy choices. In another effort to boost happiness in the workplace, Imo’s office manager organizes hikes, trips to Lake Tahoe, and trips to sporting events. “We’ve gone white-water rafting,” says Ralph. He thinks for a second. “That was a little bit on the edge of dangerous.”