March 07, 2023 by Liza Mash Levin
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At the end of April 2022, an internal decision at Airbnb became global news: the company would allow its employees to live and work anywhere in the world as it began a shift to a remote work environment.
The result? 1,000,000+ visits to the Careers page on their website, proving that global talent recognized the signal they were sending — and wanted to come work for the company.
Now, almost a year after the launch, I spoke with Airbnb’s Global Head of Live & Work Anywhere, Q Hamirani, about the drivers behind the program, its goals, and early learnings.
This Coffee with Gable webinar was an impactful conversation, and I’ll share the main takeaways with you below 👇
During the pandemic, Airbnb saw a need to support their employees to work from anywhere, mainly due to people wanting to spend time with family in an increasingly stressful global crisis. The first step was incubating their Nomad program around August 2020, planning it as a one-year initiative.
By mid-2022, their point of view changed due to several factors:
On top of that, Airbnb wanted to take a stance and position itself in the industry. So they gathered a team, put in a timeline, and set out to design the best possible program for their employees.
"It was obvious to us flexibility is where the world is going. We said we have to go there. Even if everyone else is going there in 10 years, we need to go there NOW so we can lead the change."
After analyzing where the world of work is going and concluding that workplace flexibility is the future, the next questions Q’s team set out to answer were, “What are we solving for? Why are we building this program, and what is our goal?
Here are the main goals they set for the Live & Work Anywhere program:
When embracing employee flexibility or any form of remote or hybrid work, it’s not enough to say to employees, “Go work remotely and find your way around that.” You need to build a framework and set up the pillars that will carry the initiative and make sure your employees know what to expect and how to make the most of their flexible schedules.
For Airbnb, Q and his team listed out 4 key elements the Live & Work Anywhere program is based on:
So how did the launch of Live & Work Anywhere go? Well, we already mentioned the 1M+ website visits to Airbnb’s Careers page, which in itself speaks volumes about the priorities, workplace culture, and flexibility employees want from their employers.
But it’s the internal front that superseded anything Q was expecting. The employees’ reception of the program was incredible, and they were excited to learn the company invested time and effort into designing a holistic program that was relatable and based on their needs. They feel empowered to choose what is best for them, and they feel trusted to know enough to make that decision based on their personal needs.
What this shows is that employees will always reward companies who approach work with a flexible mindset, pay attention to employee wellbeing, and give thought to their company culture as a whole instead of putting out one-size-fits-all solutions.
With bold visions and programs come great learnings, and Q shared several of them with me and our audience. I’ll sum up the six main lessons below:
"When we launched our program, we told employees that flexibility will not work without accountability. They have to own up to their share of being accountable because we are trusting and empowering them."
In the Workplace arena, many companies are looking to tackle the challenges of remote work by looking at one thing only: offering unlimited PTO to battle burnout, testing a four-day workweek to improve employee satisfaction, and boosting perks and benefits to attract job seekers.
Airbnb takes a different approach: they looked at the core of what their employees need, how they can do better work, achieve job satisfaction, and improve the company’s bottom line. Then, they developed a holistic strategy that touches all areas of employee experience and reevaluated how different departments work together to achieve synergy, efficiency, and flexibility.
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Liza Mash Levin