The words stared up at me from a tablet screen: “Welcome to Facebook. Select the reason for your visit.”
There were four options: Social, Interview, Meeting, Vendor.
I tapped on Social and started typing the name of the person I was visiting. Just three letters in, her entire name and Facebook profile photo popped up, just like it does when you’re trying to tag someone in a Facebook status.
I was there to see my friend, Ching Yee Wong, who is now Instagram’s communications manager for Asia Pacific.
“Do you want to see the office?” she asked after we said our hellos.
Facebook opened its Singapore headquarters in 2010. Now occupying three floors of a nice building on Cecil Street, this work space is guaranteed to induce office-envy.
Ching Yee led me to what looked like a kopi tiam, a traditional Singaporean coffee shop. There were wooden tables, colorful chairs and a bar.
On the walls were graffiti and posters with the words “Ship Love” and “What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?”
On the counters and the bar were coffee machines, toasters, microwaves, chips, noodles, fruits, cereal and nuts.
Inside refrigerators were salads, sandwiches and drinks—Yakult, Pocari Sweat, root beer, tea.
It was Facebook Singapore’s micro kitchen, where employees can grab snacks when they feel like it—yes, free of charge. And it wasn’t the only one—the office had two other pantries stocked with food.
“We can swing by the pantry anytime we like and snack on chips, chocolate bars, cereals, nuts and fresh fruit. We even have local delicacies like steamed pork buns and noodles,” said Lianne Mateo Dehaye, Facebook’s manager for small and medium business in Southeast Asia.
And because they don’t have a hot kitchen in the office, employees get a meal allowance, too. “It is stated somewhere in the Facebook recruiting page that ‘we keep you full with free meals, plus kitchens stocked with unlimited snacks.’ They were not kidding,” Lianne said.
It isn’t a surprise that Facebook’s new employees often end up gaining weight—their version of “the freshman 15.”
But the company has an answer for that, too. “To help us stay healthy and focused, one of our perks is health benefits—which could include gym membership, or fitness and sports classes like yoga, badminton, sports leagues, etc. Most of us try to stay fit by doing yoga or going to the gym. Personally, on days when I’m too busy to work out, I force myself to walk up and down the three floors and use the stairs,” said Lianne.
I tore myself away from the micro kitchen and walked into a work area. I was struck by how open it was—no partitions, no enclosed offices for the bosses.
Lianne said, “Facebook has a very open culture. Managers sit with their teams in order to provide immediate feedback, facilitate discussions and encourage stronger collaboration.”
Tables can be raised or lowered so people can work sitting down or standing up.
On a big screen was the office floor plan with a list of employees that looks more like your Facebook friends list. Tap on one of the names and it will show you where you can find that person. Super cool.
Beer and wine
We walked into another pantry and this one had a small Ben & Jerry’s fridge loaded with ice cream—Magnum, Cornetto and cups of Ben & Jerry’s.
Near Ching Yee’s desk was a vending machine. Inside were gadgets and accessories—keyboards, earphones, flash drives, adapters, laptop cables—also free for employees to use.
Lianne said, “We can get gadgets and accessories from the IT vending machine anytime we need them. We just flash our Facebook badge in front of the card reader and enter the item number. Although employees get these gadgets for free, prices are displayed on the machine to encourage employees to use company equipment responsibly.”
Beside the vending machine were more refrigerators full of drinks.
At the third pantry, aside from baskets of chocolate bars, there was fridge after fridge of beer—Carlsberg, Hoegaarden, Heineken and, of course, Tiger. Lianne said employees are encouraged to “Drink responsibly and with moderation.”
And is it true they have wine, too? “We need something to go with the cheese,” Lianne quipped.
Writing on the office walls
Local street artists had been invited to create graffiti on the walls. I especially loved the colorful rain and the man with the umbrella. That area had a swing. too.
In other parts of the office, I saw foosball and chess tables.
Employees wanting some fresh air can go to the patio where there’s a hammock. “I enjoy spending time at the 14th floor patio. It’s a great place to breathe fresh air, get some sun and clear my head,” said Lianne.
If on Facebook you can write on your friends’ walls, at its headquarters you can write on the office walls. There were colorful drawings and words in different languages.
I saw a rooster, Snoopy, a beer, Pacman. Some of the scrawled words: “Jimmy was here,” “Simrat is awesome,” “I love sheep,” “Facebook will rock Vietnam,” “Change the world!”
Meeting rooms were given very Asian names; my favorite was “Chewing Gum,” a nod to the Singapore law.
Ching Yee said that Facebook headquarters like to imbibe the local culture of their home cities. Outside the doors were tablets to be used for booking rooms.
Although normal working hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., employees’ schedules are flexible. They don’t have office rules at Facebook, Lianne said. “We have values: Move fast, be open, be bold, focus on impact and build social value.”
“Not even a dress code?” I asked.
Said Lianne: “There is only one code: Be your authentic self!”
There were inspirational posters everywhere. “Anyone can be cool, but awesome takes practice,” said one.
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” said another.
“Nothing at Facebook is somebody else’s problem,” one poster declared.
Making life easier
Lianne said, “All around the world, Facebook offices are designed to reflect the company’s founding ethos and core values. This universal focus on openness, simplicity and cultural connection permeates through the décor and furnishings in all our offices, including this one in Singapore. Facebook has applied the same level of innovation that it uses to create products to build a culture and a company that can redefine the way work gets done. The goal is simple: Make life easier for staff and guests so they can focus on the work they love to do.”
There’s more. We have our “Bring Your Kid to Work” day where children of Facebook employees get to see where their parents work and enjoy the office facilities,” said Lianne.
For Lianne, the biggest perk isn’t the free food or the awesome office. “It’s working with and learning from intelligent, driven and inspiring individuals who really believe in Facebook’s mission of making the world more open and connected.”
And the good news? Facebook is hiring. Lianne said, “Facebook is looking for people who are passionate about solving challenging problems and making real impact. Visit our Facebook Careers page and check our open positions at http://www.facebook.com/careers.”
I snapped a quick Instagram photo of my feet on the Facebook welcome mat, said my goodbyes and exited back into the real world where you have to pay for food, you can’t drink beer at work and you’re not supposed to write on walls.