Brian Chesky suspects that the managers demanding workers regularly come back to the office may not be quite so consistent when it comes to their own in-person work.
“I guarantee you that many of these CEOs who are calling people back to the office in New York City are going away to the Hamptons for the summer or going to Europe in August,” the Airbnb CEO said on The Verge’s “Decoder” podcast in an interview released Wednesday.
Earlier surveys have suggested a divide in who gets to work from home. The Future Forum reported in an April 2022 survey that only 19% of executives were commuting into the office each day, compared to 35% of non-executives.
Bosses have regularly complained about remote work in their drive to get people back to the office. An October survey from Microsoft reported that 85% of employers feared that employees working at home were less productive than when they worked at the office.
Big names in tech have also shifted away from remote work. Both Salesforce’s Marc Benioff and Meta’s Mark Zuckerberg suggest that employees who joined their companies as remote hires were less productive than those who at least had some in-person office time before going remote. (Surveys of employees routinely report that workers feel they are more productive at home.)
Chesky gave a different view of the remote work and productivity question in his interview with The Verge.
“Are you more productive having people physically in an office together and then constraining who you hire to a 30-mile or a 60-mile commuting radius to the office? Or by allowing your team to be able to hire people from anywhere?” he asked.
He continued that even for roles that might require regular in-person work, like creative teams, employees likely don’t need to be together “50 weeks a year.”
“If people want to go away for the summer, that’s possible,” he said.
Airbnb made its “Work from Anywhere” policy permanent in April last year. A month later, Chesky claimed in an interview with Fortune that the policy change had encouraged a million people to visit the company’s job page.
‘The number one complaint at Airbnb is affordability’
Chesky’s interview also covered the announcement of Airbnb Rooms, a renewed focus on the ability to book an individual room, rather than an entire property.
Airbnb’s CEO told The Verge that the reason for the “all-new take on the original Airbnb” was to provide cheaper options for users amid rising costs. “Probably the number one complaint at Airbnb is affordability,” Chesky said.
Chesky told Fortune last week that the idea for Rooms and several other new Airbnb features came from the experience of exclusively staying in Airbnb properties for six months. The Airbnb CEO complained that some hosts added onerous requests to his booking, like cleaning fees and a list of chores for guests to perform.
“The worst 10% of guest and host experiences were making it worse for everyone,” he told Fortune.
Airbnb shares fell by 10.9% on Wednesday following the release of the company’s most recent earnings. It beat expectations on revenue, and swung to a $117 million quarterly net profit, as opposed to a $19 million net loss a year earlier.
Yet the company warned that it expected bookings to fall in the coming quarter, and forecast “unfavorable” year-on-year comparisons to 2022’s boom in so-called revenge travel.
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Airbnb’s CEO, Brian Chesky, has made major headlines in recent days with a comment he made about bosses expecting companies to have their employees return to offices this summer. In a tweet on April 21, Chesky suggested that ‘any boss who demands our teams go back to the office in August should go to Europe themselves.’
Chesky’s tweet references the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and the gradual return to work that is expected by many employers. He appears to be suggesting that if bosses are so eager for a return to the office, they should go first – instead of placing the burden on their employees.
Chesky also stated that he believes it is still too early to rush back to the office and that businesses should take a measured approach that is “hyper-cautious,” putting safety first. He followed up on his position with a statement that hygiene and desk distancing must become part of the fabric of office life.
Airbnb’s CEO recognized that some of his employees may remain uncomfortable returning to a shared office space for the foreseeable future and noted that there must be greater flexibility for those who don’t feel secure to work from home.
The comments by Brian Chesky have generated a considerable discussion in the business world with many either applauding or nitpicking his stance. What is certain, however, is that the Covid-19 pandemic will continue to affect business decisions for months to come, and that the approach to returning to work – both for employers and employees – must be done with extreme caution.