Airbnb Demonstrates That Work Has Changed Forever

The CEO of Airbnb, Brian Chesky, recently sent an email to employees of the company all over the world. In the message he explained that Airbnb wants to hire and retain the best employees. The company sees the idea of only hiring people near to an office as a hard limit on finding the best talent.

Mr Chesky announced a five-point plan to his employees:

  1. You can work from home or the office
  2. You can move anywhere in the country you work in and your compensation won’t change
  3. You have the flexibility to travel and work around the world
  4. We’ll meet up regularly for team gatherings, off-sites, and social events
  5. We’ll continue to work in a highly coordinated way

Many companies have been charting a course into how they will function in a post-pandemic business environment, but few have created such a well-structured plan as this one from Airbnb.

Why does this simple plan contain more thought than most hybrid work plans?

First, it offers employees the choice. There are no mandated days when you must be in the office. It accepts that some people need the workspace that an office provides, but many others have learned over the past two years how to be highly effective when working remotely. Employees are given the choice to manage where they work without coercion.

Compensation is based on a job, not a work location. In the UK there is still a ‘London weighting’ in many jobs to reflect the higher cost of living and this is similarly applied in regions like California. Airbnb is discarding all these ideas about paying people more if they live in a different region and just saying ‘this is the rate for the job’ – it doesn’t matter where you live.

Employees are encouraged to travel and work remotely from their home country. This may appear normal for a travel company, but most companies steer clear of this flexibility because employees always need a home base where they pay taxes and other payroll benefits can be calculated. Airbnb is allowing complete flexibility for 90 days a year – so you will still be paid in your home country even if you spend three months working from a beach.

The last two comments are also very interesting because it shows how the company is embracing work from home and making it integral to corporate culture. Regular social events and team meetups are encouraged so team members can meet their colleagues, but meetings and off-site events will all be planned to ensure that people will be available to participate – there is no free-for-all that would allow an office culture to develop that is distinct from those working almost exclusively at home.

Airbnb has designed one of the most comprehensive and simple post-pandemic work strategies. They are taking care to avoid differences in status linked to office attendance and they are offering autonomy to employees.

Most of all, the first few lines of the email from Mr Chesky describe why the company is doing this. They had the most productive two-year period in the history of the company throughout the pandemic – remote working helped Airbnb to be more successful. 

Any company that is not embracing remote work and greater flexibility will struggle to retain their people and attract new employees. Airbnb is setting the bar high, but many other companies will follow. As this flexibility becomes the standard, just imagine a new employer asking you to be in an office at 9am every day of the week.

In May 2022, many months after a ‘return to normal’ for British workers, the average office in London is at 25% occupancy. The world of work has changed forever and remote work is now a key part of the flexibility employees expect from employers.

(Online workshop) Does WFH work? Does it make business sense?

Chair: Sandra Busby, Welsh Contact Centre Forum
Date: June 8th 2022
Time: 10.00 to 11.30am

Many people criticising work-from-home (WFH) are missing the point. No experienced WFH practitioner will ever tell you that it works for everyone.

However it does work brilliantly for some people and the key for organisations going forward will be to identify those people for whom it does work, and then to devise/implement the recruitment, management, scheduling, security, training and other strategies required to make those people engaged and productive.

WFH headlines

This online workshop will focus on the business case for WFH and how to create an effective WFH/hybrid model.

Sandra Busby will be joined by experts from home and hybrid workplace specialists SensĂ©e – Paul Whymark, Chief Operations Officer and Homeworking Team Leader, Sarah Benkalai.

During the session, we will ask:

  • How do you get people in your organisation to recognise the value of WFH and hybrid working?
  • How can organisations measure the effectiveness of WFH and hybrid versus bricks and mortar?
  • Should WFH be a right or a reward?
  • What strategic and tactical plans will best ensure everyone is on the same work mission?
  • What should go into your homeworking strategy?
  • Who should be involved in its preparation?
  • Understanding the homeworkers’ journey: Why do people choose to WFH?
  • What behaviours/characteristics are associated with the best homeworkers?
  • How do you go about recruiting this profile of person?

Register for the online workshop




So… did Work From Home Lead To A Nation Of Slackers Watching Netflix?

In the early days of the pandemic there was a wave of fear that worried managers all over the world. Would their team be slacking off and enjoying daytime TV instead of working from home during the lockdown? If the team is filled with people that are happy to avoid the supervision of managers, then what would happen?

In 2020, Fortune magazine ran a story suggesting that both managers and the employees being managed were both in danger from home working. The managers would fret that the team is watching Netflix all day, but the reality was often that a 5pm finish became 9pm because without a commute to define the end of the day it just carries on.

Many companies, such as SensĂ©e, have been facilitating work from home for years now. If you look back to the Harvard Business Review a couple of years before the pandemic started then it is filled with advice on how to ask your boss for the right to work from home. It’s well documented that home working can be just as productive as in-office work.

The HBR advice sounds almost charming after the experience everyone has had over the past couple of years: “If you’re proposing to work from home a single day per week, try for Wednesday. This way, your boss won’t perceive your request as a means to elongate your weekends, Nicholas Bloom says. ‘Wednesday is not a slacker day,’ he says. ‘It’s the middle of the week, and it’s a day for concentrated work, like detailed analysis.’”

Professor Bloom of Stanford University is well known globally for his work on research into modern working practices. His research into the Chinese travel agency CTrip has been cited as the classic example of how working from home can function well.

But even Nicholas Bloom was advising people how not to look like a slacker for wanting the flexibility to work from home. This idea of spending all day scrolling the Netflix menu is interesting because of exactly how wrong it was. When the pandemic happened, and most office-based workers had to start working from home, a subtle shift in managerial power also took place.

Working remotely, people need to be judged more on their deliverables, on what they are actually doing. There is far less scope for a manager to have favourites or team members who create a lot of noise in meetings, but then deliver very little. The typical “office politics” of being visible and yet doing very little doesn’t work when output is being measured transparently.

An RTÉ podcast from Ireland takes on the point directly: “When you are working remotely, people see the product and not the process. If your usual work process is to sit at your desk playing Solitaire (or Wordle) on your computer, this will not work out so well when working remotely. One of the early myths about remote work was that everyone would be a slacker. The data suggest almost the opposite, that remote work has probably made slacking less likely and less problematic.”

It’s a valid point that companies need to apply some systems and measurement to ensure that output is being measured fairly and transparently, but this isn’t difficult. It’s what most companies should be doing anyway and it can be done without the sneaky “spy software” that some companies have reverted to using. Monitoring deliverables doesn’t mean covertly spying on people at home using their webcam.

If this structure is in place then a great deal of workplace toxicity can be removed. A work from home team can actually feel more like a team than one that is physically together in the office. The slackers we all know from the office have nowhere to hide when their deliverables are monitored – for most people that’s a positive outcome from the pandemic experience.

Sensée to showcase its Contact Centre Outsourcing and SaaS solutions at BIBA 2022

SensĂ©e will be demonstrating its Cloudworksℱ technology platforms – including LiveDeskℱ and TeamTonicÂź – and highlighting the company’s full range of Contact Centre Outsourcing solutions at BIBA 2022.

The BIBA Conference 2022 is the UK’s largest insurance broking event.

Book a meeting with a Sensée consultant at BIBA 2022 by emailing us today