REI was intended to relocate more than 1,000 employees to a brand new headquarters built on an 8-acre site surrounded by parks and wilderness just east of Seattle in Bellevue, Wash., This summer. And then the pandemic here.
Now the outdoor trader is looking to sell his buildings and land in the Bellevue Spring District, a surprising decision that reflects the rapid transition to remote work.
REI said it will move to a less centralized headquarters strategy that spans multiple locations across the Seattle region. The company adopted an almost 100% labor market policy for HQ staff in early March.
“The dramatic events of 2020 have challenged us to reconsider and reconsider all aspects of our business and many of the assumptions of the past. It includes where and how we work, says REI’s President and CEO Eric Artz employees in a video call today. “As a result, our new experience of ‘headquarters’ will be very different from what we envisioned more than four years ago.”
Artz’s comments are similar to what the Zillow Group said last month after the Seattle real estate giant said 90% of staff could work indefinitely, at least part of the time.
“Our old preferences were debunked during the pandemic,” said Zillow Chief People Officer Dan Spaulding.
Artz said that having a distributed workforce “will have immediate, positive effects on our ability to attract and retain a diverse and highly skilled workforce.”
REI said a sale of its Spring District buildings will also help the company financially with a “positive return on investment.” It made several cost savings this year, including layoffs and pay cuts.
REI has been headquartered in Kent, Wash., Since 1988 and announced its intention to relocate to Bellevue in 2016. The cooperative planned to “embed outdoors in our campus” with green spaces throughout, outdoor meeting places and more.
REI has 161 retail locations in 39 states. It reported $ 3.12 billion in sales last year. The stores were temporarily closed in March.
Artz said the company has exceeded its initial revenue expectations during the pandemic. Camping is growing in popularity as Americans vacation closer to home.
Facebook has leased more than 500,000 square feet in the Spring District, a new development with 3 million square feet of office space. The social media giant announced last week that it will enable employees to work from home until July 2021 when COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States
GeekWire reported last week that the absence of large tech employers in downtown Seattle is causing a crisis for many small business owners who rely on office workers to buy lunch, drinks and other services.
Here is a memo that Artz sent to employees today, received by GeekWire:
Team, I want to share the news below that I just shared with our headquarters teams
The core of being a collaboration is that we see our work, our business and our purpose differently. We exist to create meaningful and positive effects for nature and for our society. And we have the courage to take the unusual path of getting there.
Today I announce in that spirit.
We have made the decision to conduct a sale of our buildings and land in Bellevue’s care district – and with that sale, to move towards a new model for our head office that will better serve the way we live, work and act as a force for positive change. .
The dramatic events of 2020 have challenged us to reconsider and reconsider all aspects of our business and many of the assumptions of the past. It includes where and how we work.
We have expanded our mobile work functions in recent years in preparation for our planned head office. Our progress was accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic – we learned that the more distributed way of working we previously thought unsustainable would instead unlock incredible potential.
As a result, our new experience of “head office” will be very different from what we imagined more than four years ago.
Instead of a single place, our “head office” will be tense several satellites throughout the Seattle area.
Teleworking will move from a temporary solution to a more committed, supported and normalized model for many of our head office employees.
And while our home will remain in Seattle, it will be more feasible for more of our head office employees to have the flexibility to live and work outside the Puget Sound region.
This will have immediate, positive effects on our ability to attract and retain a diverse and highly skilled workforce, as we continue to navigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
Our members, our business and our positive impact on society will also benefit from this transaction.
The sale of our property would provide a positive return on our investments – and thus the ability to invest part of the unlocked capital in a way that is in line with our strategic vision and our four measures of success – our impact on our employees, our members, our company and our society.
These dollars would also play an important role in stabilizing our business through the ongoing effects of current disruptions. As we have discussed, we exceed our initial revenue expectations for how we would cope with COVID-19, but the pandemic is far from over, and it is important and wise that we ensure that the collaboration is prepared for the near future – certainty of further disruptions in the future .
The rapid innovation we have made in response to the COVID-19 crisis has been inspiring, but it has also clarified the areas where we have opportunities to improve and better meet our customers’ changing needs and expectations over our offerings and our omnichannel functions. We have important work to do in this space and this sale would provide financial security to accelerate these efforts.
We know that REI’s financial stability has a direct impact on our ability to continue to support our non-profit partners, whose work to connect people of all races, genders, ages and abilities to outdoor issues now more than ever. Proceeds from a sale would also help us accelerate progress toward reducing our carbon footprint.
We will provide more information on all of this in the coming weeks and months, but here are the important things for you to hear and remove:
- We work actively to find a satellite site on East side.
- We also work to secure a satellite site in southern Puget Sound.
- We are looking for extend our Georgetown lease.
Meanwhile, we know that guidance in the county and state will continue to limit our headquarters experience for at least the rest of 2020. And we expect the majority of our headquarters team to work from home until the end of this year and until 2021. We would still have workspaces for those whose work requires them to be physically present.
And in the months and years to come, this majority model and increased focus on telework will make work from outside the Seattle area more feasible for more employees.
With that said, I admit that I work from home and in several places, not only increased flexibility, but also its own set of unique challenges.
If you’re like me, you’ll miss the feeling of community.
You miss the corridors in the corridor.
You do not have personal work sessions.
You miss our incredible cultural moments, like the Anderson Awards.
This is a huge part of what COVID-19 has removed. But I am convinced that we can solve for all this and more through innovation, cooperation and imagination.
We will have more answers and more details in the next 60-90 days as work towards the completion of a potential sale.
It is important that you know that this has been a challenging decision. I know it will land differently with everyone, and I want to thank the team that poured a lot of time and passion into this project. And I’m convinced that the sale of the Spring District campus would have a positive impact on REI’s future – and yours.
This year we have shown that our home is not a building. Our home is wherever we are who do our best work, pursue our outdoor passions and serve our communities. Serves each other.
That is what we will build as we move forward – and as we accelerate to the next.
Thank you for having the courage to enter this moment. I look forward to the work ahead.