Remote work

Friday water cooler: Is the office dead?

Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky’s recent interview with Time certainly provides food for HR thought.
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Francis Scialabba

· less than 3 min read

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The Office ended in 2013, and its final months were widely seen as the sloppy death rattle of a beloved sitcom stumbling toward a pointless finale. Is the lowercase-o office, as we know it IRL, meeting the same ignominious end, with Toby the HR guy packing up his wilting desk plant and sadly shuffling out the door?

To put it another way, if the CEO of a $76 billion company declares that the office as an institution is nearing its death knell, does it really portend the end of the office, and all the clichéd water-cooler banter and sad fluorescent lighting some have come to associate with it?

Or to put it in a way that AppleTV+ subscribers will understand, what on Earth will your Innie do all day if the office is shut down?

Though he isn’t an oracle, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky was adamant that the office is approaching obsolescence in a recent Time interview: “I think that the office, as we know it, is over.” Chesky’s position is clearly reflected in Airbnb’s new “work and live wherever” approach to managing its workforce in the post-pandemic era. As Chesky outlined in a recent letter, most Airbnb employees can live anywhere in the country where they work without having their compensation affected, work abroad in over 170 countries for up to 90 days, or continue to work in the company’s many offices, if they so choose.

It’s radically different from Apple’s approach, which will mandate office attendance three days a week starting May 23. The divergent policies set forth by two leading Silicon Valley giants raises questions for all the HR people watching from afar.

Hey you, yes, you there in the back! There’s certainly a clash of RTO philosophies afoot with these two companies, but what does it mean for you when corporate leaders such as Chesky literally say that “the office, as we know it, is over”? Do you expect this rejection of the office to catch on and take root in corporate America? Is the office on life support? If YOU were an office, would you be worried?

Join the discussion here on HR Brew’s LinkedIn page, or reply to this email with your thoughts.—SB

Do you work in HR or have information about your HR department we should know? Email [email protected] or DM @SammBlum on Twitter. For completely confidential conversations, ask Sam for his number on Signal.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.