Join Q Hamirani, the mind behind Airbnb's innovative 'Live and Work Anywhere' initiative, as he unravels the intricacies of pioneering corporate nomadism. In this episode, we delve into:
In the summer of 2020, Airbnb found itself facing a unique challenge. Many of their employees expressed a desire to travel and work remotely, whether it is to be closer to loved ones or to explore new locations during the pandemic. To address this growing trend, Q Hamirani and Airbnb launched the Digital Nomad Program in August 2020. This innovative initiative allowed employees to travel for up to six months, giving them the flexibility to work from anywhere in the world.
"Nomadism was not really a thing in the corporate context because companies had offices, and even if you worked remotely a few days a week, you were tethered around a particular geography." - Q Hamirani, former Airbnb Head of Remote and Hybrid Work
Recognizing the success and potential of the program, Q Hamirani decided to build upon it and helped Airbnb launch the Live and Work Anywhere program in early 2022. The Nomad Program became a key component of this new initiative, offering valuable insights and learnings for scaling remote work across the organization. To further support their employees' ability to live and work anywhere, Airbnb leveraged their public policy relationships to influence visa policies and advocate for remote work or nomad visas.
Q Hamirani explained that the Live and Work Anywhere program aligned seamlessly with Airbnb's business model, as the company offered a vast supply of homes available for hosting wherever employees chose to go. The program also opened up countless opportunities to explore new markets and tap into a global talent pool.
What began as a temporary measure during the pandemic evolved into a long-term strategy for Airbnb. Q Hamirani saw a surge in demand for long-term rentals, with people opting to stay for months instead of just a week or a weekend. Q Hamirani worked with Airbnb to respond to this shift by updating their product to include filters for remote-friendly destinations and supporting countries that offer nomad visas.
“What we realized was we can harness the public policy relationships that we have to help influence visa policies to drive the adoption of remote work visas, sometimes called nomad visas.” - Q Hamirani, former Airbnb Head of Remote and Hybrid Work
Q Hamirani noted that Airbnb's journey into remote work reflected the belief that they can be a leader in the remote work era, rather than a follower. Under his leadership, the company has established a dedicated center of excellence for remote work, aiming to assist HR leaders in implementing remote work policies effectively and in compliance with various regulations.
Q Hamirani emphasized that the concept of remote work shouldn't imply a lack of in-person connection. He admits that while platforms like Zoom can facilitate productive virtual collaboration, nothing can substitute the power of face-to-face interactions for building relationships and trust within remote teams. To fulfill this need, Q Hamirani suggests remote companies plan intentional moments of in-person gathering, such as annual or semi-annual meetups. These meetings provide an opportunity to recharge the "battery" of remote teams and solidify the relationships formed through online collaboration.
“My biggest frustration when I read a lot of these headlines is that everyone needs to really understand what works best for their culture and what works best for their business model.” - Q Hamirani, former Airbnb Head of Remote and Hybrid Work
When managing remote and in-person employees, Q Hamirani explained how essential it is to have a structured process for planning and goal-setting during these gatherings. While social connections are important, he says the focus should primarily be on work-related activities to maximize the value of these in-person moments. The frequency and timing of these meetings depend on factors such as the company's business model, culture, and specific goals.
“You have to build a holistic program that's all encompassing. And the goal there is that at least one component of the program will relate to everyone. All of them won't relate to everyone, but you're intentionally building for multiple personas.” - Q Hamirani, former Airbnb Head of Remote and Hybrid Work
Q Hamirani noted that a one-size-fits-all approach to remote and hybrid work is inadequate. Each organization needs to define what hybrid work means to them, taking into account their unique culture, business model, and employee preferences. Transparent communication and clear expectations, along with iterations and continuous learning, are key in refining, improving, and shaping a successful hybrid work model.
Jenny is a top Go-To-Market (GTM) leader in the Greater Boston area, where she has a track record of building powerful brands and categories, generating demand (for both sales- and product-led orgs), and creating energizing mission-driven cultures of belonging in the B2B tech space.
One of Q's notable achievements was the ideation and incubation of Airbnb's Digital Nomad program in 2020. This program eventually evolved into Airbnb's formal Live & Work Anywhere program in 2022. By leveraging Airbnb's existing business model, Q helped position the company as an industry leader in the future of work, enabling employees to live and work from anywhere.