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Facebook’s New “Company Town” and the Future of Life and Work

Would you want to live where you work?

With the overall trend toward a better work/life balance over the past few years, it seems to make sense to eliminate the daily commute between your house and your job. But for others, that may strike a little too, uh, close to home.

Facebook is wagering that its employees will appreciate the convenience. It has just unveiled plans to build a $120-million, 394-unit multifamily apartment complex between its Menlo Park, CA, headquarters and its new West Campus.

Artists’ rendering of the planned development.

The complex will include 15 low-income units, and not all of the units are limited to the Facebook faithful. However, with the dearth of housing in Silicon Valley, and with Facebook’s role as a partner in the development, one can bet it will be brimming over with eager, bright-faced employees of the social media giant. As such, the 630,000-square-foot complex is geared toward the young, tech-savvy, social, professional workaholic.

Check out these amenities:

  • On-site “grab & go” convenience store
  • On-site café
  • On-site sports pub
  • Bicycle repair shop with on-site storage
  • Pet spa with doggy day care, pet walking services, outdoor dog park and run
  • Concierge services with dry cleaning and package drop off
  • Indoor/outdoor wellness, yoga and training facility with personal training
  • Resort-inspired pool, spa and cabana area
  • iCafe – new generation community business facility
  • Large rooftop entertainment deck with three-themed areas

Additionally, a new bike path, pedestrian walkways, and bus/shuttle stops are in the works to help make getting to and from work a quick and easy breeze.

While the complex is good news for the city of Menlo Park, which hasn’t seen a significant new housing facility go up for 20 years, it begs the question of how good it is for Facebook employees. Some observers cite the “company towns” popular around the turn of the last century, which eventually fell out of favor because of their overbearing, monotone environments. In a “company town” of today, will employees be expected to work in the off hours? Will living among coworkers foster frustration instead of fun?

I wonder about the details, too. Will employees who resign be forced to leave the complex? Will a loud party at home on the weekend affect an employee’s weekday work reputation? Will employees who live in a company environment end up feeling like they always have to perform?

Is the blurring of lines between our private and professional lives a natural part of the progression towards a positive, healthy work/life balance — or is it a sign of a future dystopia of hollow-eyed workerbots?

It’s impossible to know how this housing experiment will pan out, but if it’s successful, it could set a model for future living/working developments in the future. Only time will tell.

What’s your take? Would you embrace living where you work if you liked the corporate environment well enough? Or would you rather flee the working class into the wilderness and live off the land than be compelled to socialize with coworkers during your free time? Let me know in the comments below.

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