Skift Take

Airbnb makes its remote working policy a forever thing. That's one enormous endorsement for the shift in how we will now define our work and our lives.

Series: Future of Work

Future of Work

As organizations start to embrace distributed work and virtual meetings, the corporate travel and meetings sectors are preparing for change. Read Skift’s ongoing coverage of this shift in business travel behavior through the lens of both brands and consumers.

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Airbnb Follows Where the World Is Going

Short-term rental giant Airbnb on Thursday night announced it will be allowing its workforce to work from anywhere, remote or in an office, without changing their pay if they move within the same country.

In what CEO Brian Chesky calls “Live and Work Anywhere,” he said: “In the last two years, we navigated the pandemic, rebuilt the company from the ground up, went public, upgraded our entire service, and reported record earnings, all while working remotely. It’s clear that flexibility works for Airbnb.

“But this introduces a tension.

“Airbnb is in the business of human connection above all else, and we believe that the most meaningful connections happen in person. Zoom is great for maintaining relationships, but it’s not the best way to deepen them. Additionally, some creative work and collaboration is best done when you’re in the same room. I’d like working at Airbnb to feel like you’re working at one of the most creative places on Earth, and this will only happen with some in-person collaboration time.”

… “To recap, here’s our design for living and working anywhere:

  1. You can work from home or the office
  2. You can move anywhere in the country you work in and your compensation won’t change
  3. You have the flexibility to travel and work around the world
  4. We’ll meet up regularly for gatherings
  5. We’ll continue to work in a highly coordinated way.”

Chesky added: “Today, 20+ countries offer remote work visas, and more are in the works. While working from different locations isn’t possible for everyone, I hope everyone can benefit from this flexibility when the time is right.”

Which Brings Us To This — Remote Work Visas Gain Traction Across the Caribbean

The government of Barbados has commissioned a digital marketing agency to reboot the island as a key remote work hub in the Caribbean region.

The project follows the country’s introduction of a Welcome Stamp in July 2020, with the government recognizing early on its potential to attract remote workers as offices closed during the pandemic. The digital nomad visa is valid for 12 months, but applicants must prove an annual income of at least $50,000, plus health insurance. It also costs $2,000 for a single person or $3,000 for a family to process.

Now Barbados is working with Denver-based marketing and consulting agency Zeal, which will run a two-week “destination activation” event in July to showcase the island’s remote work infrastructure, but also validate the visa’s success, or otherwise.

Remote Workers as Revenue Stream

The event was originally planned June 10-14. It’s not the first time it’s been delayed though, according to Eric Sutfin, Zeal’s Founder and chief marketing officer. Talks for the project, which involves the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association and Intimate Hotels of Barbados, began in 2020 but the emergence of Covid-19 variants put things on hold.

However, in July Zeal will host a series of workshops, panels and interviews, and share tips and resources for employees and employers to provide a seamless process for working remotely. The activation event will also feature content on how to overcome barriers when living abroad, covering visa processes, health, finance and lodging. Zeal is also giving 3 percent back with a “Love for the Locals” program as it seeks to connect members and local community groups.

“We’re trying to give people a true sense of what it’s like to work remotely, and engage the Welcome Stampers,” Sutfin said. “There are several thousand of them, and about 800 or 900 still on site there. They have an active community.”

There’s also advice on traveling solo, how to stay fit and how to set up a crypto wallet to “explore the world beyond credit cards,” he added. “We’re giving you the ability to connect and go and travel on your own. I often see these silos of Facebook groups or job boards, that have their own information. But we want to bring all of that under one model. We see us being an umbrella.”

Overall Zeal wants to bridge the gap between the government, hotels and tourism sector, and with its technology partner Connective Network is developing an app to create a membership club of sorts — but it doesn’t come cheap. Early access to a VIP Membership for one year costs $95, while a VIP Lifetime Membership costs $475, but includes an invitation to join the activation event in Barbados. The fee does include access to hotel discounts however.

Barbados will want to see a return on its investment, so Zeal will track accommodation booking data and social media feedback, and the activation event will include QR codes and hashtag tracking.

Zeal is also working with hoteliers in the Bahamas and Jamaica, which predicts the tourism sector will be “fully recovered and growing” by 2023, according to minister Edmund Bartlett. Sutfin claims the project is the first of its kind, and hopes to replicate it for other regions in the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico — which launched a “desk makeover” campaign to tap into the digital nomad market — this fall or winter, and Costa Rica at a later date.

The concept is the latest in a series of initiatives from a region that’s keen to push boundaries to kickstart tourism. The Grenada Tourism Authority, for example, recently launched a loyalty and rewards program called Connect 473  to transform the island’s diaspora into brand advocates.

Looking further ahead, Sutfin said he will build partnerships with airlines and private aviation firms. He also has his eyes on rolling out the idea to Chile, Malaysia and Thailand.

As borders reopen and more companies go remote, the Caribbean will compete with Europe this summer for its share of digital nomads. Latvia and Italy are among the latest countries to embrace remote workers with new visas, while Croatia will host a three-day conference in Dubrovnik to showcase its own suitability for tourists-with-laptops.

Sidenotes

“Inflexible return-to-office policies are hammering employee experience scores” ran the headline of the latest Future Forum Pulse from Slack last week.

The collaboration platform’s quarterly data sets gauge current attitudes to working habits, but this is now a conversation without end. Some offices will open, some won’t. It’s a difficult decision for any leader in the era of the Great Resignation. But in tandem is the constant evolution on the online tools we use — including Slack.

And “Audio first” ways of working are now in vogue, according to its CEO. Slack launched Huddles in June last year, and it’s become the fastest adopted feature by users in the company’s history. “It’s been a huge success, and millions of people are using it every week,” Stewart Butterfield said during a CNBC event on Wednesday.

It was mostly used by smaller teams, of between five and eight people, and some people leave the channel open all day. Butterfield said this should inspire developers to build “richer” types of collaboration tools.

At the same time, a new study has called into question Zoom’s efficiency to get the creative juices flowing. In a laboratory study and field experiment that involved 602 people across five countries, it turns out that videoconferencing inhibits the production of ideas.

“We demonstrate that videoconferencing hampers idea generation because it focuses communicators on a screen, which prompts a narrower cognitive focus,” according to the Virtual communication curbs creative idea generation report, published this week. “Our results suggest that virtual interaction comes with a cognitive cost for creative idea generation.”

However, when it comes to selecting which idea to pursue, the study found no evidence that videoconferencing groups were less effective, and preliminary evidence even suggested they’re more effective than in-person groups.

When remote work habits and trends evolve at such pace, it’s no wonder some businesses are taking an “inflexible” stance on recalling staff. It may simply be a case of better the devil you know.

10-Second Corporate Travel Catch-Up

Who and what Skift has covered over the past week: Air Canada, American Express, Best Western Hotels & Resorts, CWT, Delta Air Lines, Finnair, Google, Heathrow Airport, incentive travel, JetBlue, Kayak, Mondee, Selina, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts.

In Brief

Amex GBT’s Greener Meetings Push

American Express Global Business Travel’s meetings and events division has launched a suite of solutions to help organizations measure and reduce carbon emissions and achieve sustainability goals. It has two components: a Sustainable Meetings Program advisory solution, which allows customers to benefit from teams that help them assess their meetings program and develop a sustainability strategy, aligned with corporate goals; and a Carbon Neutral Events solution, which helps organizations reduce, measure and offset meetings and events emissions.

Qatar Airways Offers Voluntary Carbon Offsets

Qatar Airways has launched a voluntary carbon offset programme for its corporate customers. It will enable corporate and trade clients to offset their own emissions at any time before or after a flight. The program was built in partnership with the International Air Transport Association, and follows the launch of the passenger version in November 2020.

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Tags: american express global business travel, barbados, business travel, caribbean, corporate travel, corporate travel management, digital nomads, Future of Work Briefing, grenada, loyalty, puerto rico, remote work, Skift Pro Columns, slack, Zoom

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