Google backtracks on remote working restrictions, and offers staff more flexible options for working at the office or home
Google has fine tuned its attendance policy for staff going forward, and whether they will work from home or in the office, as Coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
Last month Google management began accelerating the partial reopening of offices in the United States, but at the same time it also placed limits on future remote working by its staff.
Google like other firms, had ordered all of its North American staff to work from home if their jobs permitted it, at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in Q1 2020. It even gave staff $1,000 to spend on equipping their home office.
As the Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the world in 2020 and 2021, Google said it would allow its staff to work from home if they want until at least July 2021.
It then extended this deadline until 1 September 2021.
But in April it seemed that Google intended to clamp down on staff remote working after that date, when it reportedly said that if staff want to work remotely after 1 September, for more than 14 days per year, they’ll have to formally apply for it.
Staff could apply for up to 12 months remote working in “the most exceptional circumstances”, and Google could call staff back to their assigned office at any point.
However Google did make a concession when it said that its offices will be altered to allow owners to bring their dogs with them.
But now Google seems to have backtracked from this tough stance, and is relaxing its approach to the return to work, and permitting some staff to permanently work from home.
Google on Wednesday sent staff a note from CEO Sundar Pichai, in which it explained that the firm now expects 20 percent of its staff to work from home after its offices reopen later this year.
Google had expected staff to spend three days a week in the office, but now CNBC has reported that Google expects that 60 percent of its employees will be on site for a few days a week, with 20 percent working in new office locations and 20 percent working from home.
In his note to staff Pichai noted that most staff would like to be on campus sometimes.
“Before the pandemic, we had thousands of people working in locations separate from their core teams,” Pichai reportedly wrote. “I fully expect those numbers to increase in the coming months as we develop more remote roles, including fully all-remote sub teams.”
And it seems that next month, in June, Google will tell staff more about how they can request to permanently work from home or work from different offices.
Google will adjust people’s pay in either scenario.
Any Google staffer can also now temporarily work for four weeks per year from a location other than their assigned office, an increase from two weeks, Pichai wrote.
Some staff might need to be at their facilities more than three days per week because of their roles, he reportedly wrote.
Employees can keep working from home through September, a spokesperson told CNBC in an email.
Google’s temps, vendors and contractors (estimated to be nearly half of the company’s workforce as of 2018), will probably be in the office on the same days as their teams, the spokesperson wrote.
Google’s remote working approach differs somewhat to that of its rivals.
Twitter for example has promised to allow staff to remote work indefinitely if they want.
In May 2020, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg predicted that 50 percent of the company’s employees could be working remotely over the next decade.
Facebook also allows employees to work remotely full time and relocate, but those employees may have their compensation adjusted based on their new locations.
This gives some staff the option to relocate to US states where the cost of housing is more reasonable than it is in California.
Microsoft recently announced that it will allow staff who work at its Redmond sites and nearby campuses, to choose between returning to work full time, continuing to work remotely, or opting for a hybrid model.
Last October Microsoft had told staff it would allow more flexibility to work from home, even after it was safe to return to the office.
Microsoft staff can also ask their managers if they want to work remotely full time, or to potentially move to a new location.
It should be remembered that Google (even during the worst of the Coronavirus pandemic) has continued to invest heavily and purchase more office space, as well as expanding its data centre capabilities.