I’ve had more chats over the past few weeks with frustrated leaders who are determined that people ‘should’ be back in the office. As the arms race for new talent accelerates, I can’t help but feel that some leaders are missing the point entirely. ‘Back to the office’ is quite simply not going to happen, at least not in the way it was in ‘the before’.
The timely article below is a copy of the email send to staff from Airbnb Co-founder and CEO, Brian Chesky. A great example of how big businesses are responding for the desire for newfound flexibility.
Two years ago, the world was turned upside down. Our offices closed and we found ourselves working from our bedrooms, basements, and home offices. Despite everything, we had the most productive two-year period in our history. While it’s been an incredible two years for Airbnb, I know it’s been hard on many of you.
Today, we’re turning the page to the start of a new chapter. I’m excited to share our design for where and how we’ll work together going forward.
We started this process by asking a simple question—where is the world going?
The answer is obvious—the world is becoming more flexible about where people can work. We see this in our own business. We wouldn’t have recovered so quickly from the pandemic had it not been for millions of people working from Airbnbs. During the second half of 2021, 20% of our nights booked were for stays of longer than a month, and half were for stays of longer than a week.
Two decades ago, Silicon Valley startups popularized the idea of open floor plans and on-site perks, which were soon adopted by companies all around the world. Similarly, today’s startups have embraced remote work and flexibility, and I think this will become the predominant way that we all work 10 years from now. This is where the world is going.
We then asked, what are we solving for?
We want to hire and retain the best people in the world (like you). If we limited our talent pool to a commuting radius around our offices, we would be at a significant disadvantage. The best people live everywhere, not concentrated in one area. And by recruiting from a diverse set of communities, we will become a more diverse company.
Now, I understand the anxiety of not seeing people in an office—how do you know if your employees are doing their jobs when you can’t see them? For me, it’s simple: I trust you, and flexibility only works when you trust the people on your team. You’ve shown how much you can accomplish remotely. In the last two years, we navigated the pandemic, rebuilt the company from the ground up, went public, upgraded our entire service, and reported record earnings, all while working remotely. It’s clear that flexibility works for Airbnb.
But this introduces a tension.
Airbnb is in the business of human connection above all else, and we believe that the most meaningful connections happen in person. Zoom is great for maintaining relationships, but it’s not the best way to deepen them. Additionally, some creative work and collaboration is best done when you’re in the same room. I’d like working at Airbnb to feel like you’re working at one of the most creative places on Earth, and this will only happen with some in-person collaboration time.
The right solution should combine the best of the digital world and the best of the physical world. It should have the efficiency of Zoom, while providing the meaningful human connection that only happens when people come together. We have a solution that we think combines the best of both worlds.
Live and work anywhere
We’ve designed a way for you to live and work anywhere—while collaborating in a highly coordinated way, and experiencing the in-person connection that makes Airbnb special. Our design has five key features:
1. You can work from home or the office
Each of us works best in our own ways, and we’re giving you the flexibility to make the right choice based on where you’re most productive. The vast majority of you will have this flexibility. A small number of roles will be required to be in the office or a specific location to perform their core job responsibilities, and those of you who have these roles have already been informed.
2. You can move anywhere in the country you work in and your compensation won’t change
This means you can move from San Francisco to Nashville, or from Paris to Lyon. You’ll have the flexibility to do what’s best for your life—whether that’s staying put, moving closer to family, or living in a place you’ve always dreamed of.
If you move, your compensation won’t change. Starting in June, we’ll have single pay tiers by country for both salary and equity. If your pay was set using a lower location-based pay tier, you’ll receive an increase in June. Before you move, make sure to talk to your manager about performance and time zone expectations, as well as your availability for team gatherings. Permanent international moves are much more complex, so we won’t be able to support those this year.
3. You have the flexibility to travel and work around the world
Starting in September, you can live and work in over 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location. Everyone will still need a permanent address for tax and payroll purposes, but we’re excited to give you this level of flexibility. Most companies don’t do this because of the mountain of complexities with taxes, payroll, and time zone availability, but I hope we can open-source a solution so other companies can offer this flexibility as well.
While you’ll be responsible for getting proper work authorization, we’re actively partnering with local governments to make it easier for more people to travel and work around the world. Today, 20+ countries offer remote work visas, and more are in the works. While working from different locations isn’t possible for everyone, I hope everyone can benefit from this flexibility when the time is right.
4. We’ll meet up regularly for team gatherings, off-sites, and social events
Being together to connect and collaborate has always been an essential part of our culture, and we’re doubling down on that. Instead of spending a set number of days in the office together, we’re prioritizing meaningful in-person gatherings that will happen throughout the year. Given that we’re still in a pandemic, there will be limited off-sites in 2022, but the Ground Control team is planning some special social events so you’ll still have opportunities to spend time together.
Next year, we’ll come together a lot more. Most of you should expect to gather in person every quarter for about a week at a time. Some roles, especially senior roles, will be expected to gather more often. We’ll do our best to define windows when most large team off-sites will occur and give you plenty of notice so you can make it work with personal and family plans. We’ll provide more details on all of this in the coming months. What makes our culture special is all of you, and I can’t wait for us to be together again.
5. We’ll continue to work in a highly coordinated way
To pull off this level of flexibility, we need ample structure and coordination. Without it, things would become a free-for-all. The backbone of how we operate will continue to be our single company calendar with our multi-year roadmap. It’s centered around two major product releases each year—a May release and a November release. Even though not everyone directly works on these product releases, we’re organizing our entire calendar around them to maintain company-wide alignment. Our collaboration sessions, off-sites, social events, and breaks will be planned in advance and designed around this calendar.
We’ll also continue to stay coordinated by primarily operating on Pacific Standard Time in the US. For those working outside of the US, you’ll stay on your current schedule.
To recap, here’s our design for living and working anywhere:
- You can work from home or the office
- You can move anywhere in the country you work in and your compensation won’t change
- You have the flexibility to travel and work around the world
- We’ll meet up regularly for gatherings
- We’ll continue to work in a highly coordinated way
A new chapter
I’ve always believed that you design the culture you want, or it will be designed for you. I’m excited about this new design and giving you the flexibility to live and work anywhere. I think it will unlock some amazing creativity and innovation—and make working here really fun.
The past two years have been some of the most defining in our history. I’m so proud of each one of you and everything you’ve accomplished. Today marks the beginning of a new chapter together. It will be just as defining as the last one, but a whole lot brighter.
If a company like Airbnb can make it work… then so can you.