Google is pushing back the date when its workers will return to offices to September 2021 and is also planning to test out a flexible work schedule with an eye toward possibly making it a permanent setup.
The news was conveyed to employees by CEO Sundar Pichai in an email Sunday night. Previously, the company had targeted June for the return date, though it had already postponed it once before as the trends of Covid-19 worsened in many parts of the world.
With coronavirus vaccines starting to roll out, employers are looking ahead to a period of transition in 2021, when work from home will become increasingly less of a strict requirement. While offices will be able to safely fill back up again with workers as the pandemic recedes, many companies have indicated they plan to make long-lasting adjustments to their policies. Some tech and business leaders, including Netflix Co-CEO Reed Hastings, have indicated a strong interest in restoring much of the in-person interaction of pre-pandemic times.
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Google is planning to try out a “flexible work week,” Pichai said, meaning employees spending a minimum of three days a week in the office and working from home for the balance of the week. “We are testing a hypothesis that a flexible work model will lead to greater productivity, collaboration, and well-being,” Pichai wrote. “No company at our scale has ever created a fully hybrid work force model — though a few are starting to test it — so it will be interesting to try.”
The tech giant has 70 offices in 50 cities around the world and surpassed 100,000 total employees in 2019. In the U.S., its shift will have an impact on cities like New York, LA and Chicago. In New York, fewer than 15% of office workers have returned in 2020, raising concerns about its economic viability. Google has begun a major expansion in New York, building out a 1.7-million-square-foot campus in Manhattan’s Hudson Square neighborhood. It also acquired air rights to expand at Chelsea Market, a converted factory space where YouTube has had offices for several years.
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