Are you ready to use Facebook at work? Okay, wait, sorry, the wording here is key. Everyone who doesn’t work in some draconian hell-office uses Facebook at work. What I mean is … Are you ready to use Facebook for work. Like, to talk with co-workers, I guess, about synergy?
Anyway: Facebook at Work. Imagine Facebook, but it’s for everyone in the office and it’s used to talk about projects and graphs and … road maps. (Can you tell that I do not work in biz dev?) It’s not everywhere yet but it is starting to creep out into the wild. Fortune reports that the Royal Bank of Scotland and Club Med are among the companies testing out the service on their thousands of employees (more than 60,000 companies reportedly applied to be part of the beta).
Facebook at Work is reportedly not all that different from the Facebook you use now to look at baby pictures, observe your friends’ emotionally fulfilling romantic relationships, and watch free-booted WorldStar videos. Except this work-version of Facebook is more about “project updates, sales leads, and customer service problems.” It’s got all of the features you’re used to: groups, news feed, chat, event listings, and so on.
Important to note is that Facebook at Work does not interface with your personal account. From the service’s FAQ, “Facebook at Work is a separate account that is associated with your company.”
Here’s what it looks like.
Facebook at Work makes sense! People use Facebook all the time anyway. You can claim that you don’t use Facebook, and in almost all cases you are for-sure lying. Mainly, this is Facebook’s best shot at eating Slack (as well as competitors such as HipChat), the chat-and-collaboration hub around which a growing number of modern workplaces are situating their computers. Slack, in case you were skeptical of how big it is, is currently pursuing a $4 billion valuation.
But there’s a large shadow looming over services like Facebook at Work and Slack that they generally don’t acknowledge. If you watched the above video (and it’s okay if you didn’t; it is very twee), you might have noticed that every scenario the service presents is in an office context. Facebook at Work never leaves the office in this conception. In reality, work-based social networks are tethers that keep you just keystrokes away from checking in with work wherever you are, at any hour of the day. This is especially true if the service supplies mobile apps (which Facebook and Slack do).
Already, Slack is becoming a hub for people who don’t even work together, people who just hang out in friend Slacks, or family Slacks, or apartment building-specific Slacks. Slack is enterprise software made personal, while Facebook’s is personal software turned enterprise. The unstated conclusion to services like these is a world in which people are accessible at any moment all the time, either fielding messages in real-time or letting their virtual inbox pile up. Regardless, the door is already partially open.
As meetings and discussions that once took place in oak-paneled boardrooms at gilded tables surrounded by Cigar Men (again, to reiterate, I’ve never worn a suit to work) move online, the question of work-life balance gets muddy. What is work-life balance when you can shift from one to the other as easily as opening an app? If, for instance, you are an hourly worker (the gig economy!) instead of a full-time employee, workplace social networks bring up a billion thorny issues.
On Facebook at Work, when does the work day end? Trick question! It doesn’t.