Airbnb announced on Thursday that the “vast majority” of its employees will be allowed to work remotely, and won’t have to take a pay cut if they move away from the cities surrounding the company’s offices. Airbnb is implementing the change after it had “the most productive two-year period” in its history while working remotely, according to a Twitter thread from Brian Chesky, the company’s co-founder and CEO. It is worth noting, however, that it also laid off a quarter of its workforce during that time.
Airbnb is also making other remote work policy changes. According to its announcement post, employees will also be able “live and work in over 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location,” as long as they keep a permanent address on file. The company will also periodically have “team gatherings, off-sites, and social events” to let its employees actually meet face-to-face throughout the year.
Airbnb’s new model is uncommon, but not unprecedented. Zillow and Reddit promised that most employees wouldn’t have to take pay cuts after moving away from major metro areas in 2021 and 2020, respectively. Companies like Twitter, Square, and Dropbox have all embraced remote work as well. But there are plenty of companies that work differently — employees at Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta, and Microsoft will have to take a pay cut if they want to move to an area with a lower cost of living, according to reports like this one by the BBC (though some of those companies are more friendly towards remote work than others).
While Airbnb’s new remote work polices certainly sound nice, it’s hard to hold up the company as a shining example of how to treat employees. A few months into the pandemic, it fired 1,900 of its workers, around a quarter of its workforce at the time. According to a report from The New York Times, the values of belonging, love, and being like a family that the company touted went out the window as it stared down the barrel of drastically reduced rates of travel. It almost feels like its new policies are a salve to its remaining workers — albeit one that’s coming years after the layoffs, and years after other companies adopted similar polices.
Airbnb isn’t alone in this respect either; Zillow also laid off about a quarter of its workforce during the pandemic, though that was because it bought too many houses, not because its business is based on something people could no longer do.
It also sounds like Airbnb is implementing some pretty serious structure in other areas, even if its employees will be relatively free when choosing where to work. Chesky notes that the company will “operate off of a multi-year roadmap with two major product releases a year” to make sure everyone stays organized.
Despite the bumpy road to get there, it does seem like Airbnb’s landed at a set of policies that could be quite enticing to current and potential employees. (They also happen to work well with the stay-or-work-anywhere vibe of the company’s rental service.) Despite its relatively small size, it could influence other, larger companies to reconsider their own remote work polices — if it’s actually successful, and its employees are on board with its ideas about the future of work.