In the early days of the pandemic, Google made news when they announced tentative plans to allow the majority of their workers to remain remote until July 2021. They were the first major company to do this and others followed suit. However, with the impending vaccine companies are starting to re-evaluate what the workforce will look like in the second half of 2021 and Google is leading the way.
After committing to that July date for (some) employees to return to offices, Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai officially extended work-from-home privileges to next September 1 in an email sent to employees on Sunday night.
These changes are likely a reaction to a swell of positive vaccine news, signaling a route back to normalcy. Stocks in telecommunication services like Zoom and Pelaton have already undertaken massive hits in response to the same.
“When we closed most of our offices back in March, we didn’t know what course the pandemic would take,” Pichai said in the email. “We’ve adapted. We’ve kept innovating. And with new vaccines on the horizon, thanks to the incredible ingenuity of our medical and scientific community, a return to normal is now in sight.”
When Facebook went public with plans to allow some employees to work remotely forever, throughout the coming decade, Google moved ahead with similar plans but with limitations. These limitations vary by region.
In areas that consistently keep coronavirus cases down, Google employees are required to go to their office at least three days a week after September 1st. These will also have the option to book spaces for collaboration with up to 12 co-workers in addition to outdoor spaces for larger gatherings.
Google workers who occupy customer-facing roles “that spend lots of time with clients,” workers that work on-site at data centers or labs, and workers that require specialized equipment to complete daily tasks will not have access to the same telecommuting luxuries.
“You will need to work from your assigned Google office and will be expected to live in commuting distance of your assigned offices,” the memo continued. “We are actively investing in our hub strategy to create more roles — and options — in global offices over time.
In-office collaboration will be just as important to Google’s future as it’s been to our past. The unpredictability still ahead for many regions creates some interesting challenges.”
A new kind of flexible work model
Pichai intends to develop in-office presentation booths in order to send professional-quality broadcasts to large, “distributed audiences.” Google will also be improving its Meet and Workspace products to “better bridge the gap between colleagues working from the office and those working from home.”
“Ultimately, we are testing a hypothesis that a flexible work model will lead to greater productivity, collaboration and well being. Those goals have always been at the core of Google’s workplace philosophy and will stay front and center for us as we plan for the future. No company at our scale has ever created a fully hybrid workforce model — though a few are starting to test it — so it will be interesting to try. We’ll approach these pilots with a spirit of innovation and an open mind, and do rigorous measurement along the way to help us learn and adapt,” Pichai concluded.
I’m excited about the opportunity to reimagine our workplace together and am sure you’ll have many questions. We’ll continue the discussion in future forums and follow up in early 2021 with more detail.”