Google has issued its clearest ‘return to the office’ call as the affects of the Coronavirus pandemic ease in the United States and other parts of the world.

The Alphabet division said it will end the voluntary work-from-home period and start having staff in the Bay Area and several other US locations return to the office starting the week of 4 April, CNBC reported.

It comes after it reported last week that Google is relaxing a number of its restrictions, imposed on its workforce during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Relaxing restrictions

It was reported that Google was restoring staff perks, such as massages and access to informal spaces in the office, back to its headquarters as it prepares to bring workers back to the physical office.

An executive last week confirmed Google was relaxing some rules around vaccines, testing, social distancing and masks.

Last July it should be remembered Google (and Facebook/Meta) became the first two tech giants to require their staff to be vaccinated against Covid-19, when they return to offices or campuses.

This prompted pushback from a small section of Google staff, after 600 staff signed a manifesto opposing firm’s widened Covid-19 vaccine mandate on workforce.

But Google stood firm and in December it made clear the consequences if staff don’t follow its vaccination rules and regulations. It told Google staff that they will lose pay – and would eventually be fired – if they didn’t comply with the company’s Covid-19 vaccination policy.

However these strict vaccine requirements are being eased.

And Google has now also announced the long-awaited return to the office.

Office return

“It’s been a long and challenging two years since the vast majority of our people started working from home,” John Casey, Google’s VP of global benefits in an email to staff that was viewed by CNBC.

“But the advances in prevention and treatment, the steady decline in cases that we continue to see, and the improved safety measures we have implemented across our Bay Area sites now mean we can officially begin the transition to the hybrid work week,” wrote Casey.

He added that staff in other offices in the US and elsewhere will begin to return to physical offices, based on local conditions.

But staff entering physical workspaces still must either be fully vaccinated or have an approved accommodation.

Hybrid working

Google also revealed that it expects most workers to come into the office three days a week and have two days of remote work.

Google will also reportedly pilot 15-minute virtual drop-in meetings with trained counsellors to help staff with the office return.

Nearly 14,000 of Alphabet’s 156,500 full-time employees around the world have transferred to a new location or moved to fully remote work, and 85 percent of total applications have been approved, Casey reportedly said.

And he said that staff who need more time before returning can also request a work-from-home extension.

Of course, Google staff desperate to escape working from home can work from the office more often if they choose.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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