Full-time office work is ‘over’

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Airbnb boss Brian Chesky is doubling down on his view that traditional full-time office jobs are an outdated notion — arguing in a recent interview that onsite work is “from a pre-digital age” that no longer makes sense for many career paths.

Chesky’s remarks came just days after Airbnb informed its current workers that they could work remotely indefinitely — a likely move to lure and retain talent in a historically tight labor market that has led many firms to boost their incentives.

“I think that the office as we know it is over. It’s kind of like an anachronistic form,” Chesky said during an interview with Time magazine’s Leadership Brief. “If the office didn’t exist, I like to ask, would we invent it? And if we invented it, what would it be invented for?”

“Obviously, people are going to still go to hospitals and work, people are going to still go to coffee shops and work — those spaces make complete sense. But I think that for somebody whose job is on a laptop, the question is, well, what is an office meant to do?” he added.

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said hybrid schedules are “not super sustainable.”
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Chesky also took aim at companies that have enacted hybrid schedules as part of their “return to office” plans after many firms shifted fully remote during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Airbnb chief argued that some companies “don’t realize this two, three days a week thing is not super sustainable.”

He added that offices will continue to exist as “collaboration spaces.” He also noted that virtual meetings have “limitations” by hindering efforts to build community.

“I’m not trying to paint a rosy picture of the future; there’s going to be a lot to work out. All I’m saying is, you can’t fight the future, we can’t try to hold on to 2019 any more than 1950. We have to move forward,” he said.

Airbnb office
Airbnb is letting its employees work remotely from anywhere without having to take a pay cut.
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Airbnb office
Chesky says onsite work is “from a pre-digital age” that no longer makes sense for many careers.
Getty Images for WIRED25

Chesky has personally adopted a similar schedule — revealing earlier this year that he would work from a different city every two weeks.

Last month, Airbnb announced that its employees would be permitted to live and work anywhere in the country without having to take location-based pay cuts. The company’s plan also allows workers to live abroad for a portion of the year and includes regular team gatherings and in-person meetings.

The nationwide unemployment is hovering below 4%, forcing fierce competition between companies to attract and retain top workers through higher pay and other perks.

A record 4.54 million American workers quit their jobs in March as part of a trend that has become known as “the Great Resignation.”

While Airbnb is just days into its fully remote experiment, some mainstream firms have faced resistance from their workers while pushing to return to the office.

For example, Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon recently noted the bank has surpassed 50% onsite attendance — though some of the bank’s junior bankers have openly complained about managers tracking their attendance while pursuing a five-day-per-week return.

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