It feels like we’ve gained the upper hand on the pandemic and are nearly ready to jumpstart the economy and return to work. The challenge is that there isn’t one politician brave enough to flick the switch and make it happen.
We need some leadership to make the tough call. Google may be the one, as it’s admired and emulated by other companies. The search giant was one of the first businesses to tell its people to work from home. Now, the company has called for people to return to the office. This, however, may be a blow to the hopes of many for a new standard of remote work.
Google CEO Sundar Picahi has been at the forefront of the work-from-home movement. At the end of July 2020, Google allowed its employees to continue working from home through June 2021. The announcement was courageous. It impacted roughly 200,000 workers. The tech giant gave the green light for other organizations to feel comfortable enough to also extend remote policies.
Pichai wrote an email to his employees at the time, “To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021, for roles that don’t need to be in the office. I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months.” This was soon followed by nearly all other organizations.
Recently, Pichai said he’ll be more “flexible” with his workers and offer a “hybrid” model that will include a blend of both remote and in-office methods of working. “We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having a sense of community is super important when you have to solve hard problems and create something new so we don’t see that changing. But we do think we need to create more flexibility and more hybrid models,” the chief executive said.
MORE FOR YOU
A number of big tech companies, including Salesforce, Facebook and Amazon, gravitated toward this “hybrid” model, in which there will be a combination of both working from the office and at home. Some places, like Spotify, are still offering the opportunity for people to work from anywhere they’d like.
Google is once again setting the pace. The company announced plans to fast track its reopening plans. This will be accomplished on a voluntary basis. It’s anticipated that people will start returning to work before the Sept. 1 return deadline, according to CNBC. According to the New York Times, Fiona Cicconi, Google chief people officer, told employees in an email, “Offices will operate at a limited capacity, and reopenings will vary state by state, based on the number of coronavirus cases in the area.” CNBC reported, “Permanent moves for personal reasons are still on hold.” Google expects workers to “live within commuting distance” of offices. The company also communicated that “it may adjust employees’ salaries based on where they work.”
In a pushback to remote work, Google told employees that if they “want to work remotely after Sept. 1, for more than 14 days per year, they’ll have to formally apply for it.” They can also apply “for up to 12 months” in the “most exceptional circumstances.”
The company is taking a different approach from industry peers, such as Twitter, which vowed to permit remote work indefinitely. A number of Big Tech bellwether companies also expedited their plans for workers to start returning to the office ahead of previously announced schedules.
Facebook will start having people return to in-person work by May. Ride-sharing company Uber plans for its white-collar staff to come back to its offices at the end of March and so will Microsoft, as it opens its Redmond, Washington headquarters on March 29.
It’s disappointing to some that Google hasn’t fully embraced remote work. The situation is still fluid. It’s likely that we’ll continue to see updates and new plans announced by Google and other companies as circumstances change.