company town

4 Reasons Facebook’s “Company Town” Is a Bad Idea

It was announced last week that Facebook has plans to build a $120 million, 394-unit housing complex within walking distance of their Menlo Park offices. These apartments will allow employees to walk to work, help curtail the housing shortage in Menlo Park, and boast amenities including doggy day care and a sports bar. Sounds great, right? I’m not so sure. While it’s great that Facebook is thinking outside of the box when it comes to employee benefits, this may be a bit too much.

4 Reasons Facebook (Or Any Company) May Want to Re-Think the “Company Town” Idea

1) Employees can never disconnect

Imagine leaving work and running into your coworkers, and only your coworkers. You would see your boss while picking up your dog and going to the gym. You’d never be able to get away. Let’s face it — when a group of coworkers get together, the conversation tends to come back to work. In a company town scenario, discussions about work would be happening while walking out of a yoga class, grabbing a coffee, and getting a drink at the bar. Wouldn’t it be nice to talk about something else once in a while?

2) What happens if an employee doesn’t want to move?

Should getting a new job mean that you have to move your family, as well? Parents who want to keep their children where they are may feel left out of the company culture that is created within the apartment complex. On a more basic level, people may simply not want to be running into their coworkers everywhere that they go. While the Facebook housing project was designed with good intentions, there may be less invasive ways to better the company living situation.

3) Why not make a deal with apartment complexes and communities in the area, instead?

Companies should always have options to give employees when they ask about housing. But rather than build something new, a much less drastic option is seeking out discounted rates for employees at housing complexes already in the area.

4) Wouldn’t it be easier to simply provide/subsidize transportation?

No housing close by? No problem! Have a pick up point in a central area and provide a bus for the commute. Many Silicon Valley tech companies do this already (ex: Google operates free, Wi-Fi-enabled coaches from several Bay Area locations).

Boom or Bust? What’s Your Prediction?

Currently Facebook only has 15 of the 394 units earmarked for employees. However, I am certain that the employee population will greatly exceed that due to its close proximity. Time will tell whether the experiment leads to a boom in new hires and increased employee satisfaction, or whether is results in a bust. Do you think that Facebook’s housing complex is a good idea? Let us know in the comments section below!

Senior Talent Manager, Engineering
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