Facebook builds its own town, but is it one perk too many?
Critics say $120m project is just a new take on the company towns built in 19th century
IT has often been noted that the perks enjoyed by Facebook staff are so good it must be hard for them to go home. In the future, they won't have to, says the Wall Street Journal, thanks to a $120m housing project the social media giant is building near its headquarters in California.
Located a five-minute bike ride from its Menlo Park offices, the Anton Menlo site will provide 394 rental apartments in a complex that also includes a sports bar and a day care centre for dogs. The company intends to charge "market rates" for the apartments and some of them will be available to low-income workers and non-Facebook employees.
The WSJ says the project "breaks new ground", even in Silicon Valley where "tech companies compete to lure coveted engineers with over-the-top perks and offices that resemble adult playgrounds".
Others say Anton Menlo is really just a 21st century version of the company towns that sprang up around factories and mines in the late 19th century. The towns, which were owned by the company, provided employees with housing, health care, law enforcement, churches and "just about every other service necessary".
For Gawker, the Facebook development isn't an escalation of the "ever-bubbling perk war", it's "an entire new front" in the campaign. "Ten percent of Facebook's employees will essentially live at work, perked into submission," it says.
The WSJ agrees that "spending more time in the clutches of the company sphere isn't necessarily positive". But a spokeswoman for Facebook insisted employee retention wasn't the chief aim of the housing project. "We're certainly excited to have more housing options closer to campus," she said. "But we believe that people work at Facebook because what they do is rewarding and they believe in our mission." ·