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Airbnb CEO: 'Employees are in charge, not companies' in push for remote work

Melody Hahm
·West Coast Correspondent
·3-min read
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Airbnb's (ABNB) first quarter as a public company was defined by the creative ways people have traveled during a pandemic. The rise in nearby road trips to more remote locations and longer term stays gave the home rental company a leg up compared to its counterparts in the traditional hospitality space.

However, the upcoming availability of vaccinations raises the question of whether these adopted patterns will continue in a post-coronavirus world.

"The lines between travel and living are starting to blur together," Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky told Yahoo Finance on Friday, citing that more travelers are staying at an Airbnb for weeks or months at a time.

Those lines are blurring, in part, because of the ability of some workers to do their jobs remotely — say, from an Airbnb in Alaska rather than a cramped New York City apartment. Chesky believes that many employees will continue working remotely after the pandemic, at least part of the time.

"I think for any company who says we're going back to the way things were, I think that's just defying laws of human nature. I don't think any of us are going back to exactly as the way things were," he said.

Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-founder of Airbnb, speaks to the Economic Club of New York at a luncheon at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar
Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-founder of Airbnb, speaks to the Economic Club of New York at a luncheon at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S. March 13, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar

For the fourth quarter of 2020, Airbnb reported revenue of $859 million, handily beating top line expectations, but still representing a 22% year-over-year decline. The company's gross booking value came in at $5.9 billion, down 31% year-over-year.

As more employees who can work remotely take three-day weekends or adopt more nomadic lifestyles, employers will have to adjust to the new normal, according to Chesky.

"My thoughts are employees are in charge, not companies. The employees and the talent market is going to drive working flexibility, not the companies. Because if a company says these are our rules, they’re not going to have the talent," Chesky said, adding that he believes most companies will end up with a hybrid model that allows for more remote work.

This new mode of thinking has benefited its two-sided platform, and Chesky says he's also implementing increasing flexibility for Airbnb's own employees. While entrepreneurs and tech companies have fled San Francisco in favor of Florida, Colorado and Texas, he has no plans to move the company out of California, though.

"There is no question there’s going to be a lot more flexibility. I think the idea that you have to physically be anywhere is changing. The place you have now is the internet, the place you have to be is on Zoom," he said. "I think what’s going to happen is all the companies, including us, will be more flexible generally speaking about where people live and how they work."

Melody Hahm is Yahoo Finance’s West Coast correspondent, covering entrepreneurship, technology and culture. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm and on LinkedIn.

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