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.

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