Outdoor Retailer REI to sell sprawling new and unused headquarters to shift to remote work

Outdoor retailer REI is selling its newly completed — and currently unused — 8-acre corporate campus in Bellevue, Washington, instead shifting to a “less centralized approach to its headquarters presence in the Seattle area.”
“The dramatic events of 2020 have challenged us to reexamine and rethink every aspect of our business and many of the assumptions of the past. That includes where and how we work,” said REI CEO Eric Artz in a statement. “As a result, our new experience of ‘headquarters’ will be very different than the one we imagined.”
The future “headquarters” will instead consist of multiple satellite campuses in the Seattle area, the retailer said, rather than one central location. Remote working will be the “normalized model” for headquarters employees.
Rendering of REI's campus in Bellevue, Washington.
The new strategy, Artz argued, has benefits. Remote working offers greater flexibility for employees to live outside of the Puget Sound region, he said, which would shrink the retailer’s carbon footprint.
“This will have immediate, positive impacts on our ability to attract and retain a diverse and highly skilled workforce, as we continue to navigate the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond,” Artz said.
REI’s headquarters employees have all been working remotely since early March, the statement said. Before the coronavirus pandemic, the company had intended to move into the new campus this summer.
REI isn’t the first to embrace long-term remote working in the wake of the pandemic. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Slack and others have told their employees they don’t ever have to come back to the office.
Meanwhile, Google, Amazon corporate, Warner Music Group, and more have said they won’t return to the office until 2021 — at the earliest.