Airbnb commits to fully remote workplace: ‘Live and work anywhere’

Airbnb is going all in on the “live anywhere, work anywhere” philosophy that much of the business world has been forced to adopt, committing to full-time remote work for most employees as well as a handful of perks, like 90 days of international work/travel. It’s a strong, simple policy that so few large companies have had the guts to match.

In an email to employees posted to the company blog (or was it a blog post emailed to employees?), and in a Twitter thread 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 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

They’re pretty self-explanatory, obviously, but just to be clear, let’s run them down.

Apart from “a small number of roles” for whom 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 within the country, your pay won’t change. Wherever you go in the U.S., for instance, you’ll get the same pay, and one hopes it’ll be enough whether you live in a small town in Colorado or midtown Manhattan. Sadly, if you decide you want to move permanently to London or Seoul, this is “much more complex, so we won’t be able to support those this year.”

Though workers will need a permanent address, they’ll have dozens of companies and locations to work from for up to 90 days a year — so stay over in Lisbon for a bit and work from that villa for a week or two after your vacation. Why not? Well, possibly because remote work visas may not be available for those areas, but that’s all a work in progress. (They’re adding partners to a big list over here.)

Chesky says they’ll all “meet up regularly,” even though Airbnb probably has about 15,000 employees at this point. That’s even more than TechCrunch! They’ll have “limited off-sites” in 2022, which is probably smart, but next year you can “expect to gather in person every quarter for about a week at a time.” I really don’t understand how they can possibly get any work done over there.

The last point seems kind of superfluous and self-congratulatory, but it is probably good to officially note that the general shape of working at the company, or how people are managed and so on, won’t change due to this new policy.

Many companies have announced tentative policies with the understanding that they would be revisited in a few months. There’s a lot of talk about the “hybrid” or “flex” model where employees work from the office a few days, then from home the rest of the time. Depending on where and how you work, this could be the best or worst of both worlds. But it does suggest a certain lack of decisiveness in leadership. (Among the early adopters of full time remote work was Twitter, which may soon be under new leadership.)

And then there’s the safety and liability question. Activision Blizzard, already kind of fubar, mandated a return to the office, then lifted their vaccine mandate. As someone noted at the time, “do not die for this company,” or any company for that matter.

Perhaps Airbnb will be the guinea pig for this particular type of “fully remote workplace” and all the other companies will be watching and waiting for the company to stub its toe on some huge new tax burden or productivity issue. But the simplicity and flexibility of the policy, international legal restrictions notwithstanding, may outweigh any new troubles it creates.