Airbnb says staff can work remotely forever — and maintain their pay

Online lodging platform will embrace “live and work anywhere” policy starting in June

Add Airbnb to the list of employers that are no longer requiring workers to report to the office.

Starting in June, the company’s 6,000 employees will be permitted to live and work from wherever they please with no impact on their compensation, CEO Brian Chesky wrote in a staff memo Thursday.

“We want to hire and retain the best people in the world,” Chesky wrote in the memo. “If we limited our talent pool to a commuting radius around our offices, we would be at a significant disadvantage.”

The online lodging platform’s embrace of remote work could have an impact on office landlords around the globe. Headquartered in San Francisco, Airbnb has 23 corporate offices in 15 countries. Its other U.S. locations are in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Portland, Oregon.

An Airbnb spokesperson said the company could not comment on the future of its offices. “A small number of roles” will still be required to come to the office, Chesky wrote in the memo.

Should the company choose to downsize its workspace, it could mean the loss of a lucrative office tenant. Airbnb opened its main headquarters at 888 Brannan Street in San Francisco’s SoMA District in 2012, signing a 10-year lease for 170,000 square feet with SKS Real Estate Partners, which purchased the century-old, five-story building for $40 million in 2011.

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SKS renovated the building for $35 million and sold it in 2014, after Airbnb had moved in, to Boston-based Beacon Capital Partners for a hefty profit: The property traded for $187 million, or about $461 per square foot, the San Francisco Business Times reported. After completing further renovations, Beacon Capital then flipped the building a year later for $307 million to a joint venture of TIAA-CREF and the Norwegian oil fund.

While Airbnb had previously scheduled a return to the office in September, the company was already subleasing much of its real estate footprint in San Francisco, SFGate reported. The firm shed at least 424,000 square feet of office space in San Francisco as of last May.

In the first quarter of last year alone, Airbnb reported losing roughly $113 million due to unused office space.

The lack of a physical workplace evidently hasn’t prevented it from making money: In his note to employees Thursday, Chesky said that the last two years have been the most productive in its 15-year history.

Other employers, including Zillow and PwC, have enacted similar measures that allow employees to work from wherever they choose. About 10 percent of American employees are still fully remote, down from about 33 percent in May 2020, the New York Times reported.

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