Airbnb recently told employees they can work remote permanently, but when they do return to the office it’ll likely look different.
“I think an office as we know it is kind of an outdated notion,” Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit on Wednesday. “It’s primarily, as it’s currently designed, an anachronistic form factor from a pre-digital age.”
He said that the company “100%” plans to redesign its offices – but admitted he doesn’t know exactly what it will look like.
“I thought we had a pretty cool office design before,” he said. “I would like us to be really innovative in the office and workplace design of the future and I think we have to live in this new world to figure out what it’s going to look like. But the office of the future should not resemble at all the office of the past because the world is changing.”
One thing he did predict was the fall of the open office floor plan.
“The open floor plan with these meeting rooms that everyone’s waiting in line to get in and no one can find a meeting room, all of that is I think a thing of the past.”
With its new flexible work policy, Chesky said the company plans for employees to gather in person for about a week every quarter “to make sure there is human connection.”
The shift to remote work also means the company will spend less money on office space and have a smaller office footprint, he said, since only a small fraction of its employees will be at the office at the same time.
“We are going to have a much smaller office footprint, we’ll probably spend a little bit more money on travel entertainment to gather people…that being said there will probably be fewer business travel meetings because a lot of things can be done over Zoom.”
The San Francisco-based company told employees last month the majority of them are able to work anywhere in the country they currently work in without having their pay impacted.
And starting in September, employees can also choose to work from more than 170 countries for up to 90 days annually in each location. But workers will need a permanent address for tax and payroll reasons, the company noted in an email to employees on April 28.
“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,” Chesky said in the email.
The home-sharing platform has benefited from the increase in flexible work. Chesky told the WSJ that the company wouldn’t have recovered as quickly from the pandemic if it weren’t for millions of people living in Airbnbs. He added that one-fifth of the business comes from people staying longer than a month.
“[That’s] not even considered classically travel,” he said. “Our business wouldn’t have recovered if it hadn’t been for people living and working on Airbnb.”