Yelp CEO closes some offices, says hybrid work is ‘hell’

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Yelp, an app that recommends local restaurants and services to users who use location-based services, is closing its offices in New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., as part of a move to double down on remote work.

In an interview with The Washington Post, the co-founder of Yelp and CEO Jeremy Stoppelman called hybrid offices “the worst of both worlds” and noted that two things have become increasingly clear in the wake of the pandemic: workers want to do their work remotely, and the company benefits from meeting demand. Stoppelman acknowledged the growing popularity of hybrid policies – in which employees work in the office part-time – but called them “half-measures hell.”

“It’s the worst of three options,” he said.

Yelp is also downsizing its Phoenix office space. All of the office closures and reductions, which Yelp says are the most underused, will take effect on July 29, he said.

Stoppelman’s decision to double down on remote work comes after Yelp told its 4,400 employees last year that they I can work from anywhere indefinitely. It also downsized its San Francisco headquarters to opt for a “hotel” model, in which employees reserve their desk space for the day. Yelp is among a growing number of companies – including Twitter, Airbnb and Slack – that have indicated that the future of work is remote. Meanwhile, others are opting for a hybrid work environment or a five-day workweek at the office.

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Yelp plans to use the cost savings of office space to reinvest in hiring, employee benefits and perks, and the business itself. Stoppelman said the company is figuring out the cadence and the best ways to host in-person events so workers can meet, collaborate and bond in real life.

But Stoppelman says he’s not taking Yelp’s labor policies seriously. Instead, he says he’s following data from employee surveys as well as business results.

A recent company survey shows that more than 85% of respondents prefer to work remotely most of the time, and that remote work has made them more effective, says Stoppelman. Currently, only 1% of employees are going to an office every day. The company announced its remote policy in 2021 and opened its offices in March 2022. Meanwhile, Yelp posted a net income of $39.7 million with record revenue of $1.03 billion in 2021. Revenue continued to increase in 2022, reaching 19% in the first quarter.

“Frankly, it was quite surprising,” Stoppelman said of the success of remote work. “We feel strongly that this is the way forward.”

When it comes to the busy world of hybrid work, Stoppelman pointed out some problems. Employees are still compelled to commute just to get to an office where they see only a small part of their co-workers. They are also forced to reside or move to potentially more expensive cities where they can go to an office. Meanwhile, companies miss out on the savings from reducing their footprint and limit their talent pool to certain geographic areas.

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Stoppelman also rejected the idea that companies cannot create culture in a remote environment – ​​as Yelp had a somewhat distributed workforce years before the pandemic. Instead, he says that culture comes from who a company hires, who it fires, and who it promotes.

“When people talk about it…they don’t have robust data to back it up,” he said of concerns about losing culture and creativity in remote environments.

As a result of its remote policies, Stoppelman said Yelp was able to hire employees in every US state, as well as Canada, Germany and the UK. He said he hopes this will increase the diversity of the company’s employee base.

Looking ahead, Stoppelman said he plans to continue analyzing worker surveys to determine how his other offices – located in San Francisco, London, Toronto and Hamburg – are being used and whether they are still needed. So far, they’re still getting enough use to stay open, he said.

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He’s also paying attention to the benefits employees want and need. After the pandemic, the company beefed up its offers to include a reimbursement for home office equipment, a monthly work-from-home stipend to cover costs such as internet, additional wellness days and childcare benefits.

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