Before You Pick Office vs. Remote

execunetselect-airbnbIn case you missed it: this morning, Airbnb raised the ante on hiring.

By giving their 6,100 employees a choice.

(Infinite choices, to be more precise.)

And in doing so, made your life a little bit harder.

Here’s the skinny from CEO Brian Chesky:

“Today, we’re announcing that employees can live and work anywhere. You can work from home or the office—whatever works best for you. You can move anywhere in the country, and your compensation won’t change. We’ll meet up regularly for team gatherings. Most employees will connect in person every quarter for about a week at a time.”

Brian stopped fighting the inevitable. Most employees – 75% to be exact – don’t want to go back to working in an office. Not, full time anyway.

The implications for you are significant.

He studied the data and knew that – had he required a return to office – he was gonna lose a good chunk of his team. So, instead, he bit the bullet.

He’s shedding office space and redeploying that capital to host regional in-person meetings on a quarterly basis (those aren’t cheap.)

As we’ve all learned the past two years, Brian’s challenges are significant:

  • How to build and protect the culture, particularly when recruiting new folks?
  • How to foster trust between employees who’ve never shared a beer?
  • How to brainstorm ideas on some virtual whiteboard?
  • How to craft strategy in an ever-faster business world?

I don’t have the answers to these and frankly I feel safe saying that remote work will never accomplish these things as efficiently as in-person.

But Brian’s sharp enough to realize that, if he loses 75% of his team, he’ll have far bigger problems.

I’m not much for prognosticating. I’m usually dead-wrong.

Had you told me we’d go from the highest unemployment rate (15%) to the lowest (3.6%) in 18 months, I’d say your the thermostat in your Airbnb was set a bit high.

But here’s a forecast I feel confident making.

I’ve even given it a name: The In-office Premium, or T.I.P.

Companies that require their employees to work from the office will be forced to pay more.

Everyone has a price. If you want to hire Kris, the price is $100K. But if you want to require Kris to work from your offices, Kris requires a T.I.P. of 25% i.e. $125K.

If you require Kris to come to the office a few days a week, the number is somewhere in-between.

I’m already seeing this dynamic play out with our hundreds of clients. When we run a Shortlist for a remote role, the candidate response rate is a multiple of a comparable in-office role.

It’s simple supply and demand. Fewer employees who are willing to work from office means the price will increase, and you should budget a T.I.P. factor (25% to be safe).

Which also means you have an inherent labor cost advantage if your business works remotely, while your competitors hunker down in an office.

To be clear:

I’m not recommending you blow up your office structure and go 100% remote. If you do, you’ll still need to solve the vexing problems listed above.

But I am urging you to factor in the T.I.P. as you make your officing strategy decisions.



Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman

Jeff Hyman launched his recruiting career at Heidrick & Struggles and Spencer Stuart, the preeminent global executive search firms. Today, he’s Chief Talent Officer at Chicago-based Strong Suit Executive Search. Along the way, Jeff created four companies, backed by $50 million in venture capital. He currently teaches the MBA course about recruiting at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management and hosts the five-star Strong Suit Podcast. Jeff has been featured by Inc., Fortune, Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media outlets. He holds a master’s degree from Kellogg School of Management and a bachelor’s degree from The Wharton School.

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