facebook81Could this place be real?  Or is it just a Disney World for work?  I mean, people don’t actually get work here, do they?

Those were my initial thoughts walking through the campus of Facebook on a recent trip.  It wasn’t the first time I visited — but its a changed world from even six years ago.  

I was kind enough to be a social guest of a long-time family friend and he invited me to have lunch with him and gave me a very unofficial tour of the campus.  It’s located in Menlo Park, California and has been the subject of many news articles.  

First off, I didn’t see any secrets and even if I did, I’m not about to talk about them on a blog. All my experiences were those that every other guest to the campus can see publicly.

But there were several things that were striking about the visit. First off, the campus is gorgeous. It’s a series of interconnected buildings with a pedestrian plaza in the middle. There’s a ping pong table, and a mini-library, and just about every amenity you could think of.  And when you drive up – there’s complimentary valet parking. (And trust me, I discovered there’s a strong no tipping policy!)

Then you walk into one of the many restaurants that populate the campus. Where are the cash registers? There are none, because breakfast lunch and dinner is on the company tab.  And GOOD food too — we had Texas BBQ for lunch.

And a walk through the offices shows open space surrounded by tons of small conference rooms. The ones I walked by were named after Muppets.

And don’t even get me started on the little snack bars on each floor — filled with every snack you could think of. They rotate them often.   Again, free of charge.

Why would you ever leave?

And that perhaps is the point. My own impression of the office workspace is of a place that is more than just work; it’s a place to socialize, to hang-out, and relax.  Don’t get me wrong — they work hard there.  The expectations it seems to me are just like every other workplace — get the job done.  But Facebook is also aiming for something more — collaboration on a massive scale.

Share the workspace and share ideas.

It’s remarkable.

And of course, entirely unrealistic of many businesses.  Many businesses simply can’t afford to feed their workers 24/7 — let alone create this kind of open space.  Perhaps it is not in the company’s culture. Or perhaps the weather is not particularly suited for the outdoor life.

And yet still, there are now thousands of workers going through this place (and, it should be noted, similar workplaces at Amazon, Apple, Google, etc.).  What happens when they leave? What workplaces will they create?

The workplace that Facebook is creating is setting new norms for what workplaces should look like. It’s still imperfect ; a recent Wall Street Journal article notes that it is still struggling with diversity despite incentives that it has established. But it is throwing a bunch of ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks.  How many of those ideas get transferred remains to be seen.

I do know one thing — if this really IS the future of work, I’d sign up for the adventure.