A new home sweet home for Facebook employees?

October 4, 2013

(Jeff Chiu / The Associated Press)

Facebook got its start in the college dorm room where its founder lived. Now, the company is working with a real estate developer to build a 630,000 square foot apartment building to house some of its employees.

On Wednesday, the social media company and real estate developer St. Anton Partners announced a “strategic collaboration” to build a $120 million rental complex within walking distance from Facebook's Menlo Park, Calif. campus. The development, which will include not only a “pet spa” and a resort-style pool, but a sports bar, a cabana area and a rooftop entertainment deck, will also be open to non-Facebook employees, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The complex was created with “extensive focus groups, surveys and coordination with Facebook,” the press release states. Calling to mind everything from the company towns of the past to the not-so-futuristic dystopian fiction of the present (paging Dave Eggers!), the new complex, which the company got involved in due to a lack of housing options in the surrounding area, the Journal reports, "mirrors the atmosphere" of Facebook's campus.

Other than a suite of luxury perks or community features—similar to the dry cleaning, free lattes and movies on the lawn that Facebook already offers employees—it’s not clear what exactly that will mean. Will residents post their status updates on iPads embedded in their apartments' front doors? Or "like" it when the people upstairs finally turn down the noise?

In all seriousness, it's understandable how the development came about. If there's a housing shortage, and there's a large group of employees who are young, without kids and working long hours, the draw of a nearby amenities-stuffed complex makes sense. It's easy to get snarky about the idea of living with one's co-workers, especially if those colleagues work at a company like Facebook. But most of us would love to be able to walk to work and have such luxuries at our fingertips.

The question is where the benefits end and the disadvantages might begin. There's no way it doesn't blur the lines between employees’ work and personal lives. When the office is five minutes from a housing community that your company helped to create, is it still cool to work from home? If people spend so much time with their co-workers, don't they miss out on some of the diverse influences that bring in new ideas?

And of course: Will people who hold all-night hackathons actually have time to make use of a cabana?

Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.

Read also:

Yahoo's perplexing work-from-home ban

What Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is like as a leader

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.
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Jena McGregor · October 3, 2013