There’s a common thread that runs between all of the workplaces of the worlds biggest workplaces, from Apple’s shiny new HQ in California, to Google’s Zurich offices, and as we’ve now seen, Facebook’s offices in London. They’re designed to make it as easy as possible for staff to do their jobs. Which can also mean they’re designed to be so pleasant one doesn’t mind working the long hours being on the bleeding edge of contemporary tech culture often demands.
Facebook actually has two offices in England’s biggest city, the one we visited in Rathbone Place in the Fitzrovia neighbourhood, which it moved into in December of 2017, and another in Brock Street near Euston. The two properties can accommodate 2,300 staff between them. The Rathbone facility is home to Facebook London’s engineers and products like Workplace — which was actually the brainchild of a London-based team — while Brock Street houses the company’s communications, policy and legal teams, and the company has recently signed a lease on a third facility in Kings Cross with a whopping 6,000 work stations.
The Rathbone offices used to house a post office, and are the work of architect Frank Gehry. There’s an industrial look and feel about the space, albeit with the requisite tech trappings of hip furniture, coffee bars, illuminated signage, and culturally relevant, pop-culture inspired boardroom names. On the ground floor, a faux living room right next to reception is used to demonstrate Oculus virtual reality products (Facebook acquired the company in 2014).
Also located on the ground floor is a creative studio space with art supplies, cutting boards, 3D printers, and other equipment for Facebook staff to use. It’s pithily named the ‘Facebook Analog Research Laboratory’.
‘Wayfinder’ terminals at regular intervals throughout the building let staff use large touch displays to search for facilities, meeting rooms or other employees’ workstations… something that’s necessary when your workplace stretches over six floors and includes hundreds of people.
As you’d expect from a tech giant, there are numerous options to refuel with coffee, snacks or whole meals from the large, subterranean canteen, or the micro kitchens that staff can find on every floor. On the top floor there’s even a pick ‘n mix sweet dispenser shaped like one of London’s iconic red buses. There are plenty of other conveniences, too, including vending machines for tech essentials, like phone covers, display port adapters, earphones and even keyboards, in case an engineer wears theirs out in a frantic bout of coding.
While it’s unusual for a London office to pay much attention to roof spaces given how seldom the weather’s conducive to using it, Facebook’s Rathbone office has a few decks on its upper levels, and a balcony that runs all the way around the top one. When we visited, there were even people actually working on them, it being an uncharacteristically warm and sunny day for October. Throughout the building we encountered people working in pods, on couches, in boardrooms or at cafe counters, suggesting that Facebook doesn’t mind where you work, as long as — to quote the slogan adorning many a poster — you ‘move fast’.