Facebook buys an unused headquarters even as more employees work remotely

REI announced in August it had decided to sell the 400,000-square foot campus complex in Bellevue, Washington, that it had planned to move into this summer. It disclosed Monday that it had reached a deal to sell the property for $390 million. Facebook (FB) is buying the buildings and most of the land for $367.6 million, while the site developer is purchasing an undeveloped 2-acre portion of the property for the rest of the sales price.
Like many tech companies, Facebook shifted most of its employees to working from home in March due to Covid-19. Last month the company said it is extending its work from home policy until July of next year due to health concerns. CEO Mark Zuckerberg said earlier this year that he could see half of Facebook’s employees permanently working remotely within the next five to 10 years.
But Facebook has been adding staff throughout this year and adding office space along with them.
“In order to address our rapidly growing workforce, we continue to make investments in physical office locations,” said a statement from Facebook. “In the second quarter of 2020, we added a record 4,200 net new employees and now have more than 52,000 employees. While Facebook envisions 50% of its employees will be working remotely within the next 5-10 years, our offices are still vitally important to our culture and will help accommodate anticipated growth and meet the needs of our employees that need or prefer to work from campus.”
Facebook, which is based in Menlo Park, California, already had three other buildings under development in the same business district as the REI site.
“An internal employee survey the company fielded in May showed that approximately 65% of Facebook employees were eager to return to the office as soon as possible,” Facebook said.
But some other tech companies are pulling back on office space plans, despite their own growth. Two weeks ago Pinterest (PINS) announced it had terminated its lease for approximately 490,000 square feet of office space to be constructed near its current headquarters in San Francisco.
“As we analyze how our workplace will change in a post-Covid world, we are specifically rethinking where future employees could be based,” said Pinterest CFO Todd Morgenfeld in a statement provided to CNN Business. “A more distributed workforce will give us the opportunity to hire people from a wider range of backgrounds and experiences.”
Working from home isn't for everyone
REI, which specializes in camping and other outdoor gear and clothing, is a co-op that is owned by its customers. It has 167 stores in 39 states. While it does not report quarterly results, most brick-and-mortar retailers reported a sharp drop in sales earlier this year due to store closings associated with the Covid-19 pandemic. REI also shifted its headquarters employees to remote working due to health concerns.
The company said it has decided to now have its headquarters span multiple locations across the Puget Sound region. REI will also have headquarters employees working remotely as its normal model going forward.
“We learned that the more distributed way of working we previously thought untenable will instead unlock incredible potential,” said CEO Eric Artz in August. “This will have immediate, positive impacts on our ability to attract and retain a diverse and highly skilled workforce, as we continue to navigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.”
REI had been planning for the new headquarters for four years and it had been under construction for the past two.
“The sale represents a positive return on the co-op’s investment in the property,” according to REI’s statement.