Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky makes no bones about his belief that working in an office is an anachronism from another era. “The office, as we know it, is over,” Chesky said in a recent interview for Time‘s The Leadership Brief.
Chesky’s conviction that the pandemic has permanently changed the way Americans live has driven his company’s strategy over the past two years.
It’s hard to argue with the results. In the first quarter of 2022, the company booked a record-breaking 102 million nights and experiences and posted revenue of $1.5 billion, up 70% compared to the first three months of last year. It’s a remarkable turnaround from when its business was obliterated in the early months of the pandemic.
Today, Airbnb is unveiling what it calls “the biggest change to Airbnb in a decade.” The first big tweak is to the platform’s search function. Airbnb users are now able to explore by category, where listings are grouped by a particular interest — for example, great design or a fabulous view — to unearth possibilities that would have remained hidden otherwise. There’s also new feature called “split stays” that widens search results to make it easier to divide a longer trip between two homes.
With this latest release, Airbnb is tripling down on its credo that the work-from-anywhere phenomenon is here to stay. “Basically, we have changed the new way to search on Airbnb for a new world of travel that we think is permanent,” says Catherine Powell, Airbnb’s global head of hosting. “Now, obviously, not everybody has the same flexibility, not everybody is able to work remotely in the same way. But we believe that there is a newfound flexibility. People are discovering new places, domestically as well as internationally. And they are staying longer.”
Much longer. Early in 2020, as many Americans shifted to working remotely, Airbnb noticed that something new was happening. Instead of booking properties for days at a time, people were booking for weeks or even months at a time. The “work from anywhere” trend had arrived, and the lines between living, working and traveling were blurring.
Long-term stays on Airbnb were at an all-time high in Q1 2022, more than doubling from Q1 2019. Nearly half of nights booked on Airbnb between January and March were for one week or more.
The new changes announced today are a natural progression from others made last year, when Airbnb released more than 150 upgrades, many of them aimed at the growing number of work-from-anywhere warriors. These features included flexible searching and a tool to test the WiFi speed. Since then, travelers have used the “I’m Flexible” feature more than two billion times and the WiFi feature nearly 300 million times.
“It’s clear that we are undergoing the biggest change to travel since the advent of commercial flying,” Chesky said on an earnings call in February. “Remote work has untethered many people from the need to be in an office. And as a result, people are spreading out to thousands of towns and cities, staying for weeks, months, or even entire seasons at a time.”
It’s a flexibility that Airbnb is offering its own employees. Last month, the company announced it would allow staffers to work from anywhere in the United States. And, starting in September, they can also live and work in more than 170 countries for up to 90 days a year in each location.