How to build a culture that attracts and retains talented staff

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The Business of Work (episode 2): It’s always been vital to build a company culture that attracts and retains talented employees.

What happens to corporate culture when the workforce is dispersed with employees working not only from different locations, but in some cases, in different countries? And how can policies like ‘work from anywhere’ help? 


  • Professor Nick Wailes, Senior Deputy Dean (External Engagement) UNSW Business School and Director AGSM @ UNSW Business School
  • Associate Professor Will Felps, School of Management and Governance, UNSW Business School
  • Susan Wheeldon, Airbnb’s Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand 

Find out more about Associate Professor Will Felps’ research below: 



The very nature of work is changing. In some professions, it’s how we work and when we work. Increasingly it’s also where we work that has undergone a major transformation in just a few years.

Since millions worked remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s become clear that not everyone needs to work face-to-face constantly with teams. So, if they could work effectively from home, could they work effectively from anywhere?

Some companies – like global travel company Airbnb – think so. They recently announced its talent pool would have a ‘work from anywhere policy’, with several piloting programs to attract digital nomads to their workforce.

AGSM’s Business of Leadership podcast host, Professor Nick Wailes, Senior Deputy Dean and Director of the Australian Graduate School of Management at UNSW Business School, caught up with Susan Wheeldon, Airbnb’s Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand and AGSM MBA.

They discussed why Airbnb sees benefits in the work-from-anywhere philosophy and what they have learned about working with digital nomads so far.

We also talked to Will Felps, an Associate Professor at the School of Management and Governance at UNSW Business School, about his research into how companies can use human resource management and motivation to build a culture that gets the best out of – and retains – talented employees.

Nick Wailes: Hi, everybody. My name’s Nick Wailes, and I’m the director of AGSM. Welcome to the Business of Leadership Podcast series, where we’re looking today at the changing nature of work. I’ve got two fantastic guests joining me. Susan Wheeldon is Airbnb’s Country Manager for Australia and New Zealand and a graduate of AGSM. Susan, fantastic to have you here.

Susan Wheeldon: Thank you so much for having me, Nick. I’m excited to join.

Nick Wailes: And also joining us is Associate Professor Will Felps. Will’s a researcher and a teacher in the School of Management and Governances at the UNSW Business School. Great to have you here, Will.

Will Felps: Yeah. Looking forward to it. Thanks.

Nick Wailes: Susan, I thought we might start with you. We’re going to explore the changing nature of work and particularly the changing nature of where work’s done. Airbnb famously decided recently that its workforce could work from anywhere. I wonder if you could talk us through that decision and how that’s played out for your business.

Susan Wheeldon: Yeah, definitely. And what I love about it is it’s one of the world’s leading, I guess, live and work anywhere. We refer to internally as LAWA, because we love an acronym. But one of the things that I think was... We’d all been working from home for such a period of time and the first question that everyone asks is, “Well, what happens to productivity?” And what we saw was during that time of working from home with COVID, it’s the same time that we IPO’ed. We released 150 products in some of our twice annual releases. So, it was obvious that this was a way it could work. So, what Airbnb actually announced was, you could choose to work from home or the office. So, we’ve maintained all of our office space understanding that different people have different work needs. You can move anywhere in the country that you were employed in.

But what’s amazing about this is you can take your salary with you. So, I can go from Sydney to Standthorpe and take a Sydney salary with me. So, it really allows people to choose where they want to live and base their life. And we obviously still need to connect. So, part of the tenet is that we will regularly connect across the region and across the broader world to make sure that you can continue to keep that culture up. But to give you some insight into how well that was received, when that was announced publicly, it was just over a million people in the first week hit our Careers page on Airbnb. So, it goes to show that it was a popular programme and one that it’ll be interesting to see how many other tech companies follow suit and continue to do that.

Nick Wailes: And Susan, it’s been running for a while now. What’s the balance of people working from home, working in the office, and how’s that changing over time?

Susan Wheeldon: You’re absolutely right, it does change and it changes week to week. And that’s purely because of how people choose to spend their days. So, it may be that if you’ve got to do a childcare run on certain days, you tend to work from home from there. We tend to get people all together in the office when we have what we call Airfinity groups. So, we have team activities, so that tends to get a larger group of people into the office as well. So, it’s one that, it constantly ebbs and flows, but that’s the joy of the programme, is it allows people to be in complete control of how they want to live and work.

Nick Wailes: Will, you’ve been researching work and effective teamwork for a long time, and I know you’ve been tracking the growth of work from home and some of the things that have get in the way of it. When you hear stories like this, what’s your reaction to it?

Will Felps: Well, broadly, this seems like a good news story, the possibility in particular to work from home. That’s something that was a trend that’s been going for a while, but just creeped up a year by year, little by little. So, starting in the 1980s, people were talking about, “Oh, we’re going to be able to work from home.” But it didn’t really manifest really until the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced people to shift to a model where we can collectively figure out how we’re going to actually do this thing. And then I don’t think we’re ever going to go back. And that shift is mainly a positive one, I think, for both employers and employees. The employees that choose to do this see a benefit. If you ask them, do I want to go back?” almost none of them do. In fact, there was a recent survey of Australians who worked from home and said, “If you had to go back tomorrow, what would you do?” And a third of them said, “I quit.” So, basically I think that this is becoming, at least for white collar workers, the new normal.

Nick Wailes: On another one of these podcasts, we looked at the future of the office, and some of the things about that was quite a lot of benefit of people coming together and the social interaction becoming the real value of the office. Susan, I’m wondering if you’re thinking about the office differently in this new world of work and the role that it plays.

Susan Wheeldon: So, you’re exactly right. The office still does play an important role and that’s just not because of bringing everyone together, which is a core component of it. It’s also if you are starting out in your career and you’re in a share house with four other people who are working from home, that’s not a great environment to be in. So, it allows people to be able to come in and use that space. But it does mean you have to think about how that space is set up. So, previously where it may have been, what is the maximum number of desks we can fit into this space?

Now it’s more about people are going to come in to share and to partner together on programmes. So, how do you make that space, for want of a better word, more interactive, so more breakout spaces as opposed to this is just hard and fast desks. So, I think it does change the actual structure that you take. And then it’s also about just looking at what are the reasons that people would want to come into the office. And whether that’s providing lunch, end of trip facilities, those type of things, just to also give people a reason to come in and connect as well.

Nick Wailes: But I presume if you don’t know in advance which part of your workforce is going to be where you have to think about what’s the right system to manage it. So what are the structures that you have in place to allow people to be able to effectively work with each other when they’re remote and when they’re working from anywhere?

Susan Wheeldon: So, there’s a couple of things and it is all around that management space. So, some of them are things like, we actually have where you book your desk. So, we run a hot desk, as a lot of tech companies do. So, you can see how many people are coming in each day because they’ve booked that desk. It also allows them to book a desk in any Airbnb office around the world so you know what your numbers are going to be. So, if we have people from New York out in Sydney, we know that they’re going to take X number of desks for however long. The other thing I think as well is you just also have a really strong team calendar.

So, you can also then use that so people can understand who’s going to be in when. And it also works to how we structure our events. So, we run a 12-month calendar in advance with all of what we would call our cultural events. And that allows anyone who’s living in Coffs Harbour or who’s living in WA to understand, “Oh, on this Thursday we’re going to have this team activity. So, my team will get together on the Friday. I can plan my travel now to come to those events.” So, it just gives people advance notice. It does require a bit of a change to how you’ve normally done things, but we’ve been doing that now for well over a year and it’s working really well.

Nick Wailes: And Will, I’ve been reading some of your work. You’ve done quite a lot of work on virtual teams, and it seems that structure is quite an important part of that. Do you want to talk to that a little bit more?

Will Felps: Sure. So, whereas in a face-to-face context you might have spontaneous interactions, to coordinate with each other in a virtual world you have to be more structured. It requires more intention. It requires more planning. I think Susan gave a great example of that where you have a year in advance when and where things are going to be done. Yeah. You basically need more structure, more project management. You can’t rely on the water cooler conversations or dropping by someone’s office to make things happen.

Nick Wailes: Some people say that structure gets in the way of innovation or it gets in the way of idea generation. Do you think that’s true?

Will Felps: I think by structure I don’t necessarily mean top-down plans for how you were going to do everything. For example, I think sometimes you need to structure for spontaneity. So, if we’re talking about how people are going to come up with ideas, that oftentimes historically has happened through conversations around the water cooler, over lunch. If you’re not having those water cooler conversations, well then you need to basically use some technology to allow for spontaneous non-directed conversations. So, for example, there are platforms where you can go in and interact with a variety of different people somewhat spontaneously. For example, in my class we used something called Two Can. And you need to plan for that spontaneity to be able to emerge in a way that you didn’t before. So, I guess I would say you absolutely still need the spontaneity, but you have to plan for it.

Nick Wailes: Susan, when you think about team processes or the way that people have worked together, how do you preserve the innovation when you’ve got people spread all over the place?

Susan Wheeldon: I think I really like what Will touched on before, which is you almost do need to plan for that spontaneous innovation. And there’s a couple of ways that we do that. One is something that we have that’s called Airfinity groups, and that is a whole range of cultural groups that have an alignment. So, there’s Air Pride for example, or there’s Women At, and what those groups actually do is they bring cross-functional teams together. So, you get to work with people that you might not normally. And just through those type of things you end up having conversations about what you’re working on and what other things are happening. So, I think that’s one way. The other way is really making sure that in our all hands, that you’re covering off every function. So, everyone is across what every other function is working on. And we are very open with the information that we share with everyone.

There’s a real element of trust through that. And that then means that people can understand and go, “Oh, hang on, you said you’re working on that product. That sounds very similar to this other thing that I’d like to do over here. Can we connect offline and chat about that?” So, you just find other ways of being able to deliver that through. And I think the final thing that happens is when you have those cultural events and you bring everyone together, by getting them in the office, people will normally come for a half day event, they’ll normally come in for the full day. And so again, you’re getting a large group of the team together who’ve then got that time in the office. And a lot of that is then around shared lunches and just getting some time together which allows that innovation to take place.

Nick Wailes: Yeah, so I think that is a good example of the role of structure and spontaneity and how they mix together. I’m interested in your engagement surveys and how your team are feeling about the work arrangements. Are you tracking that, and what is it telling you?

Susan Wheeldon: So, we do track. We do an annual engagement survey. And I think it’s no surprises. I mean, that million who came to our website tells you the popularity of it. But anecdotally, just in conversations with the team, the fact that if you’re a Sydney-sider or in fact any capital city, you can choose to go and live somewhere where housing is more affordable. You can choose to go and live closer to your family and help you out with childcare. That fundamentally changes your ability to focus at work. It fundamentally changes your ability to get more productivity in how you choose to work. And so we see that people are just really enjoying actually having the choice. And I think it’s the choice that is what makes it so valuable. So, if you are getting work done on your house, then great, you want to come into the office and avoid any of the jackhammering at home, you’ve got the option to do that. So, I think it just means you get far more productivity because no one is forced to work in an environment that they do not want to be in.

Will Felps: Yeah. And just to jump in there, the academic research on this is very consistent with Susan’s experience with Airbnb. So, there’s a good amount of research that has shown that remote employees are in general more productive. And a lot of times this COVID-19 phenomenon actually provided a natural experiment to see. People who were measuring productivity before and after, we moved the same people to remote. What happened? In most cases, the people who were moved to remote were more productive and were more satisfied. Now interestingly, they were also more stressed, so that’s kind of interesting. They were more satisfied, but they were at the same time more stressed. So, it’s not that they’re relaxed, lazy at home, watching TikTok, watching Netflix. They’re focused.

Nick Wailes: It also suggests a really different role for leadership, I think, doesn’t it? You’ve got this very old-fashioned model of leadership, which is making sure that everyone’s sitting in their office at the right time, that they’re not leaving before 17:00 or 18:00 or whatever, and this really micromanager view of leadership. But it seems like in this world that we are moving into, you need leaders that play a different role and have different function. Susan, when you’re thinking about the leaders in your business, what are the attributes or skills you’re really looking for there?

Susan Wheeldon: So, you need exceptionally strong managers, but you also need to hire the right people. And I think we’re very fortunate at Airbnb just by the strength of the brand and the product that we do have such a good talent pool that we pull from. And so if you hire extraordinary people, why would you not trust them to do the extraordinary things that you’ve asked them to do? And I found certainly in my experience that if you give people the ability to find their own path and do their own things, you’ll just get far more out of them. Far more creativity, far innovation than if you say, “Hey, here’s this thing that I need delivered.”

That’s not to say you don’t have parameters around deadlines and what products need to do and how things need to be executed, but for the most part you’ve hired extraordinary people and so they’re capable of doing the role. I think the job of management and of good leaders is to then say, “How can I help you to facilitate that? Who do you need to be introduced to in my network to help you get the answers or the data or this project going?” And so it’s more about just using your skills to help them deliver their work rather than telling them what they need to do.

Nick Wailes: So that’s really the role of leadership, a bit like a guide, coach, enabler, rather than a monitoring type role, I’d say. Will, I want to talk to you because we’ve known for a long time that managing for outcomes, enabling rather than controlling, there’s quite a long history of people saying that it’s a better way of doing things, but it’s not common or typical. What do you think is getting in the way of that?

Will Felps: There is a tendency for many people to, when they move into leadership positions, to try to exert control. Oftentimes people who are promoted into leadership positions are fairly conscientious. They’re fairly experienced. They oftentimes think that they know the right way to do things. And the idea of cultivating and developing people so that they can lead themselves is not always something that comes naturally to people. And I think that’s a core part of leadership development and has been for many years, but has only become more important in the technology enabled world that we live in.

Nick Wailes: Susan, maybe we could talk a little bit about access to talent. I presume for an organisation like yours that’s really important, and I’m wondering how much the hybrid work experience allows you to access that talent in a new way.

Susan Wheeldon: Well, I think the point is that to make the assumption that all talented people live in a capital city and the capital city in which you’re headquartered seems illogical, and as it turns out is illogical. So, my view is I’d rather get the best person for the job. And if that means you’re in a tiny country town, as long as you’ve got a decent Wi-Fi signal, you’re welcome to work with us. And I think that has helped us to find some extraordinary people. It’s also helped us to retain extraordinary people.

We had an example recently of a lawyer who said, “14 years ago it would not have been possible for me to leave, to move to my regional country town where I grew up and want to be with my family and be able to do this type of role. It just wasn’t an option, and now it is.” And I think the gains to that is extraordinary. So, I think that certainly helps us. I mean, the other thing that helps us is, it’s hard not to love travel. It’s hard not to love tech. And I think Airbnb does an amazing job in the communities that they’re in. So, I think that also certainly helps us to attract and to retain really, strong talent.

Nick Wailes: But I assume the national regulations are struggling to keep up with this new world of work. Let’s say you have a team member that says, “I’m going to move to Bali, and I’m going to do that work from there,” is that something you can accommodate, or is it still quite complicated?

Susan Wheeldon: So, employees can actually live and work in over 170 countries, and that’s for up to 90 days. And that’s exactly to your point. It is really complex in relation to things like tax and visas. What we are actually doing is Airbnb is actually open sourcing a solution. So, we’re partnering with over 20 countries to offer remote work visas, and there’s obviously more in the works. And all of that is about saying if we can set it up for us, then other companies can use that same piece as well. And then you really allow that digital nomad piece to take off.

Will Felps: Just that seems to me really exciting, that possibility of hiring people from anywhere. But also, as you mentioned, the tricky legal challenges. That’s really the main barrier. But the idea that there are people around the world who are incredibly talented and also willing to work for very reasonable wages is really true. And for companies, I think that’s one of the really big questions, is to what extent do you have a hybrid model where people are in the office three days a week and there’s one office, or do you have a model that really is much more, you can work from anywhere. And that has some really tricky cultural pieces and some really tricky legal pieces, but it also enables the ability to find really amazing people from around the world who are willing to work for quite reasonable wages. So, I think in my mind that’s the really big, big structural question when it comes to employment.

Susan Wheeldon: I think the other thing to add on there, Will, is the fact that Airbnb is in over 200 countries in the world. What better way to access talent than from the countries where we actually are, who deeply understand the cultural nuances and what that market is looking for? And you can’t get that when you’re just headquartered out of a regional office. So, for me, I think it’s really strong from a business strategic point of view and it also gives you access to the best talent in the world.

 Nick Wailes: We’re having this conversation in late 2022, and Elon Musk has just taken over Twitter and he’s told everyone to get back to the office and start exhibiting some of those old-fashioned behaviours. Susan, do you have a sense of how that’s going to play out? You employ similar people, software developers, those sort of things, have you got a sense of whether Elon’s going to be successful at Twitter, or whether the Airbnb way is a better way to go?

Susan Wheeldon: Well, I think if you see the media reports, it looks like there’s a fairly high increase in people potentially wanting to exit out of that. So, I mean, I can only speak for Airbnb, but certainly we found that it works for our team to date. If that was to change in the future, that would be something that would be done as part of an overall team consultation. It certainly wouldn’t be at the decision of one person, and I think it would be highly unlikely that you would ever go back to a fully mandated in the office. We’ve seen that it works. We’ve seen that it works in a travel company during a global pandemic where travel wasn’t allowed and we’ve still had some of the strongest quarter-on-quarter growth coming through that. And we’ve had the IPO and we’ve released an extraordinary number of product refreshments. So, for me, I just think the proof for us is in the pudding, that it’s worked to date, and I can’t see why that would change shifting forward.

Nick Wailes: Will, what about you? Do you think Elon Musk approach is going to be successful?

Will Felps: I wouldn’t predict success. I’m looking forward to doing Elon’s takeover of Twitter as a leadership case study. But I don’t think it will be a study to emulate exactly what to do. I think he’s made a number of very, very bold, surprising decisions that at least go against a lot of the things that we typically teach. So, it’s a fascinating example and I will be very surprised if he’s successful. I hope he is, but I’m sceptical.

Nick Wailes: It’s always really hard to get academics to predict something, so I’ll take that as the closest we’ll get. I do want to return to this issue about productivity because I’m really interested in the reported increase in productivity. One argument is just people working longer hours, they’re checking their devices at 7:00, they’re working all day, they’re still online at 8:30, so it’s not actually an increase in productivity, it’s just working longer. Whereas, some other people have argued that because you can have focus time and it’s a bit more structured, people are able actually to work a bit more smarter. Susan, have you got a sense about the balance between those in your team?

Susan Wheeldon: Certainly. And I can talk about my own personal experience in this one and it’s certainly something that I think role modelling is really important in. My commute to the office was, in COVID, a 15 minute drive; in regular life, an hour and 15 minutes each way. And so the reality is yes, that is time that maybe you can make a couple of phone calls but it is pretty much dead time. I now use that time to go for a jog in the morning, which means from a mental health perspective, that’s my meditation for the day. I get to listen to awful music, and then I’m starting at the same time I would start if I was going into the office, but I’m just in a much better head space. And I think by encouraging all of the team to do that so that time is their time, it’s not time that they should be working.

And it’s also how you set up your internal meetings. We don’t have any meetings that run outside of business hours and in fact we try and do some that finish a bit shorter so that if people have different bits and pieces to do, they can accommodate that. So, it’s all about just about setting up how people want to use that time. Having said that, if you want to pop out for two hours in the middle of the day to do an ocean swim because that’s your thing and you would rather work from 7:00 to 9:00 in the evening, you are welcome to do that because that’s what fits in for your lifestyle, with the caveat that ever understands no one requires a response that’s outside of business hours.

Nick Wailes: Okay, so that’s putting some rules and some structure around it. Will, your view on this productivity issue?

Will Felps: Yeah. So, I would agree with you, Nick, that there’s more and more people working evenings and weekends, but it’s not necessarily that they’re working more hours overall. So, the studies that look at how people are spending their time, it looks like they’re basically working about the same number of hours but they are taking interruptions in the 9:00 to 5:00 period to do various things, and instead doing some of those same things in the evenings and the weekends. So, there’s a kind of blurring between your work life and your home life.

That’s been very common for people like academics like myself, it’s always been the case, but now more and more people are having the challenge of really not feeling like they can turn off. I think that’s one of the reasons why people experience more stress when they are remote work. Even though they prefer it. They like that flexibility. But there is this sense of, “I always can be working.” You always have access, the opportunity, the stimulant, the email, the text that’s saying there’s something to be done. And that’s something that when we were in the office from 9:00 to 5:00, that just wasn’t possible and you were forced to stop in a way that now no one’s forced to stop.

Nick Wailes: Susan, you gave us a great example about exercising, putting yourself in a good frame of mind and role modelling that behaviour, but you are also conscious of the need to put some guidelines in place that allow people to structure the boundaries between work and life?

Susan Wheeldon: Definitely. I think this is where tech comes into its own. So, things like you turn off your Slack notification so it’s automatically set up that when you don’t want to receive notifications you don’t receive them. Likewise we have across the office, for those who want to partake, Meeting Free Wednesday. So, everyone knows that on Wednesday you’ve got time to do that really deep dive thinking work. We also do things, as I said, about where you schedule meetings to make sure that they’re not impeding. We regularly seek feedback on what day is best for our all hands, what time is most suited to people, just so we can work out where it’s most suited. So, you just do have to put in some guard rails on how you help that. And likewise for holidays. We also say, “Switch off all of the notifications on your work email and on your Slack. You are on PTO.”

If it’s urgent there’s an expectation that you’ll pick up the phone and call. Because also if you’re not prepared to pick up the phone and call someone, it’s not really that urgent. So, that again I think just helps to really make sure that that time is precious and you get that time to recharge. I think the other thing that Airbnb is very good at is we have company-wide global days off that they will just pop in. So, we’ve got one coming up on Monday, and that’s also just a nice way of knowing that the whole company is offline and that day, particularly in a global organisation, the public holiday here is not a public holiday in the States. So, having that global day off means you know you’ve got a whole day where that’s a genuine, nothing is coming in, there’s no pings. And it’s amazing what that does for just company morale and getting people re-energised.

Nick Wailes: Will, it seems that Airbnb as an organisation has been quite thoughtful and it’s thought about helping employees manage this online-offline world, but there are plenty of organisations where that’s not necessarily the case. How should organisations be thinking about helping their employees manage that, the blurring between work life and private life?

Will Felps: I think that one of the underlying challenges is to what extent a company wants to be directive about that versus to say, “Oh, if you want to work in the evenings and weekends, it’s up to you.” So, I remember it with my PhD advisor. He said to me, very much tongue-in-cheek, “You have wonderful flexibility as an academic. You can work 60 hours a week wherever and whenever you want.” So, I think that’s a question of to what extent do you somehow have some sense of when people are overloaded, checking in with them, and then taking off some of the gas, taking off some of the pressure. And that’s sometimes harder to do in a virtual context, to understand are people overloaded or not? And that requires basically having check-ins with people. So, if you aren’t already doing it already, this means you need to be having, for example, weekly one-on-ones with your people to keep that relationship warm when you can’t just pop by the office with each other.

Nick Wailes: You can also think of a situation where junior people in an organisation feel like they just have to keep working and there’s not really a clocking off time or those type of things, and it could lead to burnout and quite challenging situations. Do you think we’re likely to see an increase of burnout and those type of things across organisations?

Will Felps: I do, yeah. I think you’re likely to see probably more burnout for a couple of reasons. One is, I think people are more stressed. One, there’s the lack of blurring. There’s also the loneliness component for people who are completely remote. On the other hand, despite that, I think most people prefer the option of working from home. It’s not just I think that. The empirical results are astounding. Almost everybody wants it, especially younger people and especially women. For them it’s as near to universal as you can get, want that option, want that flexibility. So, yes, I don’t think it’s necessarily all roses, but in general most people find it a more desirable configuration for their lives, that flexibility.

Nick Wailes: Okay. Susan, you’ve spoken about how Airbnb as an organisation has really designed the relationship between the virtual and the office, and I think that’s really interesting. It goes to this broader point that Airbnb is a design-led organisation, and all of us who’ve used the product will have a bit of a sense of that. But I’m wondering, where is this workforce and workplace design happening? Is it corporate headquarters, or are there different parts of the business being asked to create a model that works for them? How does that play out across the organisation?

Susan Wheeldon: It’s a combination of both. So, the overall policy is obviously done at a global level and that’s done in consultation with employees to understand what they actually do want. And part of that is then also done at a country level. And the reason being is because you’ve got cultural nuance. You’ve got different ways that people work. You’ve got different housing environments. And so by giving that flexibility to say, “Here’s the overarching policy,” and then allowing people to work out what works best in their region. I think the other thing is we’ve got an incredibly strong group of country directors right across the world. So, being able to then share and learn from each other about, “Oh, you’ve implemented that? That’s really interesting. Let’s try that here.” And then it’s always an iterative process. So, there’s not a set and forget, this is how we’re going to do it. It’s always, you get new people on board. Macro environment changes. It’s about continually saying, “Is this working best for us at the moment? How do we keep it making sure that it’s working for everyone?”

Nick Wailes: I’m going to wrap things up now just by asking you to think forward a little bit and maybe just tell us five years from now what you think work is going to look like and what you’re excited about in that. So maybe Susan, we can start with you.

Susan Wheeldon: In my dream state, I’m in a self-driving car, which means I can do work and I can commute to wherever I would like, but I don’t think it will be that different to what we’re seeing at somewhere like Airbnb today. I think it would just be far more widespread because as the need for strong talent and that competition gets harder, people are just going to have to allow humans to live like humans. Which I think then means that we’ll see more companies doing a similar programme.

Nick Wailes: And Will, what are you excited about?

Will Felps: Yeah. So, I love the idea of, I think, what Airbnb is accomplishing and enabling, which is for people to work in a variety of cool places, to move around. This digital nomad thing, I think, right now it’s a very exotic phenomenon, but I think it would be interesting and quite plausible that in the next five years more and more people are going to be working from distance. I think you’re going to see probably fewer people live in cities, which is interesting. I mean, I think there’s going to be a gradual move away from cities which are so expensive towards now people living more and more, I think, in rural type areas.

It’s going to be a modest shift, but I would expect that I think the really interesting thing in the next five years is going to be how many companies go beyond hybrid work. So, right now hybrid work is the safe option and it’s becoming the new normal, where you go into the office two or three days a week, you work from home two or three days a week. I’m very curious about, in the next 5, 10, 15 years, whether or not you’re going to move to an increasingly remote workforce. Where, Nick, you talked about some people from Bali. Are you going to hire people like that? I don’t know the answer to that but it’s a set of experiments I’m looking forward to seeing.

Nick Wailes: Okay, great. Well, I’ve really enjoyed the conversation, and I think it’s given us a huge amount to think about and something that we’re going to be dealing with for the next little while. Susan, thanks so much for sharing the Airbnb story and great to reconnect with you, and Will, thanks so much for your input.

Susan Wheeldon: Thank you.

Will Felps: Thanks, Nick. Thanks, Susan.


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