REI is going remote and selling its corporate headquarters
REI Co-op has announced plans to sell its newly completed corporate campus in Bellevue, WA. Instead of the central location, the co-op will embrace a new HQ set-up of multiple satellite campuses and “lean into remote working as an engrained, supported and normalized model.”
The first reason given for the move are the proceeds from the sale of the building and land. The funds will shore up REI’S balance sheet in the wake of COVID-19 and enable investments in growth initiatives as well as commitments to nonprofits and carbon goals.
The second is increased confidence in the benefits of remote working, including being able to recruit outside of the Puget Sound region and offering more flexible work schedules and less commuting time for existing staff. The decision comes after REI’s headquarters successfully transitioned to nearly 100 percent remote work in early March.
“We learned that collaboration doesn’t have to be tied to a single location,” Ben Steele, REI’s EVP and chief customer officer, told RetailWire. “We learned that mobile working tools and technology are pretty effective, and we learned that the benefits of flexibility to the individual employee are pretty profound.”
REI so far has plans for three satellite locations in the Seattle area to provide space for in-person collaboration. Mr. Steele noted that REI’s corporate team continues to work largely from home due to local guidelines and is finding ways to adapt to the changes, such as having fewer casual brainstorming sessions and the difficulty building camaraderie and integrating new employees.
In a memo to employees, REI CEO Eric Artz also acknowledged that working from home has “its own set of unique challenges” and will be an adjustment for some. He noted that some employees may already be missing hallway conversations, in-person work-sessions and “incredible cultural moments” such as REI’s Anderson Awards peer recognition program. He’s confident “innovation, collaboration and imagination” will solve any shortfalls.
Mr. Artz concluded, “This year has shown us our home is not a building. Our home is wherever we find ourselves doing our best work, pursuing our outdoor passions, serving our communities. Serving each other.”
- REI Co-op to pursue sale of headquarters, embrace distributed work model – REI
- Evolving the Future of Headquarters Work – REI
- REI plans sale of unused eight-acre headquarters campus as the retailer embraces remote work – The Washington Post
- Companies Start to Think Remote Work Isn’t So Great After All – The Wall Street Journal
- REI Built an Elaborate HQ. Because of Covid-19, the Outdoor Retailer Wants to Sell It – The Wall Street Journal
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What steps will be critical for REI to ensure the shift to remote working and multiple satellite campuses proves effective? Do you think the move will prove successful for REI and do you expect other retailers to take similar action?