Remote work
Photo: Alistair Berg via Getty Images

The future of work is remote-ish

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Good morning! As tech companies try to figure out the best way to bring workers together without forcing them into an office, Airbnb is embracing a unique twist on a hybrid model. I’m Sarah Roach, and I got to meet lots of my colleagues for the first time in person last week. All of my height predictions were accurate.

Is this the future of work we’ve been waiting for?

The future of work is messy. Some companies are hoping that fun perks will bring people back to the office, at least a few days a week, while others don’t care if you ever come back to the office. Airbnb seems to have figured out the best of both worlds.

Airbnb announced it will let employees work from anywhere in the world. This doesn’t come as a shock — Brian Chesky has been vocal about work becoming largely remote, and now he’s walking the walk.

  • Airbnb employees can work from anywhere in the U.S. or can choose to live in one of 170 different countries for 90 days at a time. Airbnb won’t allow permanent international moves, at least for right now.
  • Airbnb won’t cut pay for employees depending on the place they choose to work.
  • Instead of having workers back in the office a few days per week, the company will bring teams together on a quarterly basis for off-sites and social gatherings.

Airbnb isn’t the first company to allow people to work from anywhere, but its plan is the least complicated. Some tech companies’ policies come with pay cuts or caps on raises, while other tech companies have adopted hybrid work plans that have become more taxing on employees than enjoyable.

  • Tech companies like Google, Twitter and Meta might reduce pay for employees who move to locations with a lower cost of living, and some workers aren’t happy about it.
  • Some startups cap salary raises for people moving to areas with a lower cost of living.
  • Others allow remote work, but it’s subject to approval from managers (Amazon) or varies by team (Apple). Only a handful of companies allow anyone to work remotely, full stop.

Implementing a hybrid or remote work plan isn’t easy. Many companies are finding it difficult to strike a balance between embracing the changing times and making employees happy with the desire to bring everyone together. Airbnb is one company that seems to be trying to address both issues.

  • Doing work in person can be beneficial. Seeing co-workers IRL is helpful for relationship building, and bias against people who live away from the office is something managers should be wary of.
  • Airbnb won’t do away with in-person work entirely, but it wants both the “efficiency of Zoom” and the “human connection that only happens when people come together,” so the company plans to host off-sites and social gatherings for its employees. It’s unclear what those get-togethers will look like, but Google just hosted Lizzo for a private concert, so …

The key to allowing people to work remotely is making sure it’s not a headache for everyone. Coinbase recently wrote in a blog post that workers shouldn’t feel punished for their decision to go remote, be it through pay cuts or exclusion from social circles. But Airbnb’s plan is a move toward remote-ish: the ability to live away from an office with the option of having some occasional in-person face-time. It might just be the true hybrid work model of the future.

— Sarah Roach (email | twitter)


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