Zillow’s CEO is warning that the future of work could create a ‘two-class system’ where those who come into the office are viewed as better employees

Empty office coronavirus
  • Zillow CEO Rich Barton discussed the future of work during the company’s Q4 earnings call.
  • A hybrid model could create a “two-class system” that negatively impacts remote workers, he said.
  • Others have echoed his concerns. GitLab’s CEO called a hybrid model “the worst of both worlds.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Throughout the pandemic, the buzzy phrase in corporate America has been “hybrid model” – as in, a new way of working that involves both remote work and coming into a physical office a few days per week or month. 

And while that model seems like an elegant solution for life post-coronavirus, there may be a hidden downside for employees, Zillow CEO Rich Barton warned.

During the online real estate company’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, Barton discussed how Zillow managed the shift to remote work throughout 2020 and what he’s expecting for the future. While Zillow has been successful operating as a “cloud-headquartered company,”the company does plan to have some employees return to its offices, and that can present challenges, Barton said. 

“We must ensure a level playing field for all team members, regardless of their physical location,” Barton said. “There cannot be a two-class system – those in the room being first-class and those on the phone being second-class.”

What Barton is alluding to is that idea that employees who choose to report to the office either some of the time or full-time could be viewed as more dedicated and more engaged than those who choose remote work. Over time, managers may begin to view the employees they can see working in person as more productive than those who they only see over video chat. 

Other chief executives agree. Sid Sijbrandij, CEO of code-collaboration firm GitLab, described a hybrid model as “the worst of both worlds” in a piece for Wired last summer. Sijbrandij warned that remote employees won’t feel included and will have a more challenging time communicating than their peers who report to the office. 

Over time, employees at companies who choose the hybrid model will feel a shift from “remote-first” to “remote-allowed,” he said, which creates a world where “remote employees are not penalized for working outside the office, but are also not proactively integrated into the fabric of the company.”

Sijbrandij described the old, pre-COVID model of working as being one that rewards attendance rather than output and that many companies will be unable to let that go. 

His solution? An entirely remote workforce. GitLab, a $2.75 billion startup, has been remote-only since it launched in 2011. It currently has about 1,280 employees in 66 countries around the world.

Read more: How to get a job at $2.75 billion code-collaboration startup GitLab, despite a nontraditional hiring process where it doesn’t accept applications for specific roles

An evolution of the office 

Google headquarters

Zillow isn’t the only tech-driven company considering a hybrid model of work. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said he expects Google to adopt a hybrid approach, but was clear that the future definitely includes some in-office work. 

“We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having that sense of community, is super important for whenever you have to solve hard problems, you have to create something new,” he said during a video interview for Time 100 in September. “So we don’t see that changing, so we don’t think the future is just 100% remote or something.”

Read more: Google is ‘reimagining’ work for the post-pandemic era, but losing its famously lavish office perks could pose a big challenge to its culture

Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, who will take over as Amazon’s chief executive in the third quarter of this year, told CNBC in December that he predicts most people will adopt a hybrid work model and that he expects the future of work to be “hot offices.” 

“My suspicion is that a lot of these office buildings will start to evolve from being optimized for individual offices or cube space to being hot offices where you decide which day you’re going to come in and then you reserve a desk,” Jassy said

Travel giant Trivago and cloud computing firm VMware have also said they’re adopting a hybrid model of working going forward.  

Freeing us from the old rhythms

Work from home

For Zillow, moving to any kind of remote work wasn’t initially a natural transition. 

The company has historically been anti-remote work. Zillow’s Chief People Office, Dan Spaulding, told CNN’s Kathryn Vasel last August that prior to the pandemic, the company viewed its growth and company culture as being defined by collaborating in-person. 

“I think there was a belief, that wasn’t just isolated to us, that if people weren’t in the office that they were doing something else, and maybe that something else was not being focused on their role,” he said. 

The pandemic, he said, has been able to “free us from some of those old rhythms.” 

Zillow announced last July that it would allow roughly 90% of its workforce the option to work from home at least part-time on an ongoing basis. Spaulding told CNN that the company expects some people will come in a few days each month, while others will come in three or four days per week. 

Zillow recognizes that “there is a balance between where people can be most effective and that balance is unique for all of us,” he said. Going forward, Zillow will rely on its physical offices as a space for employees to come work who may not be able to get much done at home, as well as a collaboration space for teams. 

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Investor Ron Conway and Zillow CEO Rich Barton are among 13 new billionaires who have agreed to give away most of their fortunes by signing the Giving Pledge

ron conway
Ron Conway in 2017.

  • Famed Silicon Valley investor Ron Conway, Zillow cofounder Rich Barton, and early Facebook employee Jeff Rothschild are among this year’s new signatories of the Giving Pledge, thereby agreeing to give the majority of their net worths to charity.
  • This year’s 13 additions to the Giving Pledge have a combined net worth of around $40 billion.
  • The Giving Pledge was founded in 2010 by Bill and Melinda Gates and investor Warren Buffet and has since garnered the signatures of over 200 billionaires, including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.
  • Still missing from the pledge’s signatories is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who is the richest person in the world with a net worth of more than $200 billion.
  • Bezos has been criticized for not donating enough to charity and is the only American among the five richest people in the world who hasn’t signed the Giving Pledge.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A new round of billionaires has signed onto Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s Giving Pledge, whose signatories agree to give the majority of their fortunes away.

The new billionaires include Zillow cofounder and CEO Rich Barton as well as famed Silicon Valley “super angel” investor Ron Conway, according to the Giving Pledge’s website. Early Facebook employee Jeff Rothschild, who has a net worth of $3.8 billion according to Forbes, and Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwartzman also signed this year. As Forbes estimates, the combined net worth of the new signatories sits at more than $40 billion.

The Giving Pledge was founded in 2010 by Bill and Melinda Gates and investor Warren Buffet as a “movement of philanthropists who commit to giving the majority of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes, either during their lifetimes or in their wills.” Signatories must be bona fide billionaires. 

It has since garnered the signatures of over 200 billionaires across the world, like Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.

But a 2020 report from the think tank Institute for Policy Studies found that the majority of the original signatories are now much richer than they were when they signed back in 2010, suggesting that they are making money faster than they are giving it away. 

As Forbes notes, the pledge isn’t binding, meaning Giving Pledge can’t force those who sign to give their fortunes to charitable organizations. The Giving Pledge also doesn’t oversee donations made by signatories.

Read more: Jeff Bezos is the first person ever to be worth $200 billion. This is how the Amazon CEO’s immense wealth stacks up to the average US worker, the British monarchy, and entire countries’ GDP.

Some billionaires have been criticized for not donating enough to charity organizations – Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has accumulated a net worth of more than $200 billion since first becoming a billionaire in 1997. He is the richest person in the world and the only American in the world’s five richest that has not signed the Giving Pledge.

Bezos’ ex-wife, Mackenzie Scott, signed the Giving Pledge in mid-2019 after her $38 billion divorce settlement. She has donated more than $4 billion over the last few months to more than 300 organizations to help people hit hard by pandemic-driven economic trouble.

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DoorDash and Airbnb are not the future of tech leadership, says venture capitalist Gene Munster. He breaks down 3 under-appreciated tech stocks that have greater potential.

NYSE traders
  • Venture capitalist Gene Munster told CNBC on Friday that while Airbnb and DoorDash are “phenomenal,” there’s more potential for upside in underappreciated tech names including Zillow, Carvana, and Take Two Interactive.
  • The Loup Ventures co-founder and veteran tech analyst said he owns Zillows personally and with a valuation of just a third of Airbnb’s, it has potential to be “massive.”
  • Munster also said that he likes online used-vehicle sales platform Carvana. That stock is up over 180% year-to-date and trades at roughly $261 a share.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Venture capitalist Gene Munster told CNBC on Friday that while recent IPO’s like Airbnb and DoorDash are “phenomenal,” he sees a different class of tech stocks taking leadership in the future.

“This recent IPO class is phenomenal, they are disruptors,” Munster said of Airbnb and DoorDash. But he added that a lot is priced into their valuations already, and the best stock performance is going to come from underappreciated tech stocks like Zillow, Carvana, and Take-Two Interactive.

The Loup Ventures co-founder and veteran tech analyst said he owns Zillow personally and that it will be “massive.” The online real estate company is currently valued at a $29 billion market capitalization, just one third of Airbnb, Munster added. 

“They’re gonna take what they do so well about capturing the users on a monthly basis, checking out real estate, renting, buying and add other products to that,” he said on Zillow. 

Read more:Who’s going to catch them?’: A Tesla analyst who once covered Intel breaks down the similarities he sees in the 2 disruptive companies – and shares why the stock has the potential to soar another 30%

Zillow is up roughly 170% year-to-date and is currently trading around $124 a share.

Munster also said that he likes online used-vehicle sales platform Carvana. That stock is up over 180% year-to-date and trades at roughly $261 a share. 

Video game company Take Two Interactive was another one of Munster’s picks. The stock is trading at $190 a share and is up 55% year-to-date.

When CNBC’s Joe Kernan asked Munster if he would put the same faith he has in tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, and Google, into DoorDash and Airbnb, Munster said: “No, I wouldn’t.” 

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