Airbnb is banking on the “live anywhere, work anywhere” philosophy that much of the business world has been forced to adopt, committing to full-time remote working for most employees and some perks like 90 days of international work/travel. It’s a strong and simple policy that so few big companies have had the courage to apply.
In an email to employees posted on the company blog (or was that a blog post emailed to employees?), and in a Twitter feed for those who can’t be bothered, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky outlined the new policy, summing it up in five points:
- You can work from home or in the office
- You can move anywhere in the country where you work and your compensation will not change
- You have the opportunity to travel and work around the world
- We will meet regularly for gatherings
- We will continue to work in a highly coordinated manner
They’re pretty self-explanatory, obviously, but just to be clear, let’s analyze them.
Apart from “a small number of roles” for which presence in an office or location is required (and who probably already know this), all employees can work from wherever they want.
If you want to move, as long as you stay in the country, your salary will not change. Wherever you go in the United States, for example, you will receive the same salary, and it is hoped that it will be sufficient whether you live in a small town in Colorado or in midtown Manhattan. Unfortunately, if you decide to move permanently to London or Seoul, it’s “much more complex, so we won’t be able to support them this year”.
Although workers will need a permanent address, they will have dozens of businesses and places to work for up to 90 days a year – so stay in Lisbon for a bit and work in this villa for a week or two after your holidays. Why not? Well, maybe because remote work visas might not be available for those regions, but it’s all a work in progress. (They’re adding partners to a big list here.)
Chesky says they will “all meet regularly,” even though Airbnb likely has around 15,000 employees at this point. It’s even more than TechCrunch! They’ll have “limited off-site” in 2022, which is probably smart, but next year you can “expect to meet in person quarterly for about a week at a time.” I really don’t understand how they can do work there.
The last point seems a bit superfluous and self-satisfying, but it’s probably good to officially note that the general form of work in the company, or the way people are managed, etc., won’t change because of this new policy.
Many companies announced interim policies with the understanding that they would be reviewed in a few months. We talk a lot about the “hybrid” or “flex” model where employees work from the office for a few days, then from home the rest of the time. Depending on where and how you work, it could be the best or worst of both worlds. But it does suggest a certain lack of decisiveness in the leadership. (Among the early adopters of full-time remote work is Twitter, which may soon be under new management.)
And then there is the issue of safety and liability. Activision Blizzard, already something of a fubar, ordered a return to the office, then lifted its vaccine mandate. like someone noted at the time“don’t die for this business”, or any other business for that matter.
Maybe Airbnb will be the guinea pig for this particular type of “fully remote workplace” and all other companies will watch and wait for the company to run into a huge new tax burden or productivity issue. But the simplicity and flexibility of the policy, notwithstanding international legal restrictions, may outweigh the new problems it creates.