Airbnb’s Five Rules for Working From Anywhere — Quartz at Work
Airbnb, the company that changed the way millions of people travel, is trying to find a way to let its staff live and work from anywhere. On Friday, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky announced on Twitter “five key elements” of its new work policy, which goes further than several other tech giants in its flexibility for employees:
1. You can work from home or in the office, whichever works best for you
2. You can move anywhere in the country, like San Francisco to Nashville, and your pay won’t change
3. You have the opportunity to live and work in 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location
4. We will meet regularly for team meetings. Most employees will log in in person quarterly for about a week at a time (some more frequently)
5. To achieve this, we will operate on a multi-year roadmap with two major product releases per year, allowing us to work in a highly coordinated manner.
Airbnb has a clear business interest in experimenting with working from anywhere: the more companies adopt similar policies, the more potential guests book long-term stays on Airbnb.
In January, Chesky said he’s tried the lifestyle himself, tweeting that he “lives on Airbnb”:
He framed the decision as a response to customer behavior on the platform. Quartz’s Camille Squires reported that 20% of total nights booked on Airbnb in Q3 2021 were part of a stay of 28 days or longer.
Work from anywhere is here to stay
Regardless of how many people decide to become digital nomads, remote work is likely to increase even if the pandemic subsides. Participants in Good Judgment Open, a participatory forecasting platform, predict that the percentage of jobs on LinkedIn that mention “hybrid” or “remote” will nearly double next year, to about a quarter of all posts. Nicholas Bloom, a Stanford economist who studies remote work, concludes according to recent survey data, approximately 15% of workers will be fully remote after the pandemic and an additional 30% will work in “hybrid” setups. He also says that 30% of workers want to be totally remote, which will put pressure on companies to change their policies.
Abandoning the office has the potential to transform the global economic geography, create opportunities outside of “superstar” cities, and give people more choice about how they fit their work into the rest of their lives. But it will also change the pace of work in ways that are hard to predict.
So far, remote work has mostly been positive for productivity, according to Bloom. But dramatically increasing the number of remote jobs while maintaining or improving productivity will require new ways of working, and that’s what makes Airbnb’s fourth and fifth remote working principles so compelling. Not only will staff have to meet in person for up to a week at a time – a significant imposition for many people – but the company is adjusting its product launch schedule to allow its transformation to work from anywhere.
How to improve remote work
Expect more changes like this as companies experiment with remote working. For example, recent research published in Nature found that in-person meetings generate more ideas and higher quality than video calls. The 2020 response to this is to state that employees will inevitably have to return to the office when covid subsides. In 2022, it’s worth asking if in-person meetings and Zoom calls are the only options. Many decision-making experts argued long before the pandemic that groups do a better job when they generate ideas independently and not in a meeting. Maybe the way to generate better ideas remotely is to have fewer meetings but structure some of the work in a very different way.
That’s easier said than done for a large public company like Airbnb. But its leaders seem to at least get that working from anywhere will require fundamental changes in the way the organization does things. The new era of remote working started with Zoom calls from the kitchen table, but it’s not going to end there.