Alphabet’s Google is continuing to crack down on remote working as it seeks to encourage staff to consistently return to the office.

CNBC reported that Google’s HR head told staff on Wednesday that it will be cracking down on employees who aren’t adhering to the hybrid work schedule.

Remote working is already proving to be a difficult issue for tech firms. Last month a report from workspace provider Techspace found that three quarters of tech workers consider hybrid working a key factor when choosing future employer.

Google Central Saint Giles

Office attendance

Google has reportedly updated its hybrid work policy Wednesday and it includes tracking office badge attendance, confronting staff who aren’t coming in when they’re supposed to, and including the attendance in employees’ performance reviews, according to internal memos viewed by CNBC.

Most Google staff are expected in physical offices at least three days a week, mirroring similar arrangements at Meta, Amazon etc.

In March CEO Sundar Pichai addressed employee criticism of cost-cutting measure that included a desk-sharing policy at its cloud unit.

Pichai reportedly said that “it feels like a ghost town” in some of the company’s offices, and he said that some staff are coming into the office “only two days a week.”

Remote working clampdown

Now CNBC reported that Google’s chief people officer, Fiona Cicconi, has written an email to staff at the end of the day on Wednesday, which included insisting on office attendance, saying “there’s just no substitute for coming together in person.”

“Of course, not everyone believes in ‘magical hallway conversations,’ but there’s no question that working together in the same room makes a positive difference,” Cicconi’s email reportedly stated.

“Many of the products we unveiled at I/O and Google Marketing Live last month were conceived, developed and built by teams working side by side.”

Her email also reportedly said the company will start including their three days per week as a part of their performance reviews and teams will start sending reminders to workers “who are consistently absent from the office.”

Reconsider arrangements

According to CNBC, Cicconi also asked already-approved remote workers to reconsider their decision.

“For those who are remote and who live near a Google office, we hope you’ll consider switching to a hybrid work schedule,” Cicconi reportedly wrote. “Our offices are where you’ll be most connected to Google’s community.”

A separate internal document showed that already-approved remote workers may be subject to reevaluation if the company determines “material changes in business need, role, team, structure or location.”

In the US, the company will reportedly periodically track whether staff are adhering to the office attendance policy using badge data, and executives are currently reviewing local requirements to implement in other countries, one of the documents states.

If workers don’t follow the policy after an extended period of time, human resources will reach out about “next steps.”

Going forward, Cicconi said, new fully remote work will only be granted “by exception only.”

“Our hybrid approach is designed to incorporate the best of being together in person with the benefits of working from home for part of the week,” Google spokesperson Ryan Lamont said in a statement to CNBC. “Now that we’re more than a year into this way of working, we’re formally integrating this approach into all of our workplace policies.”

Lamont added that the badge data viewed by company leaders is aggregate data and not individualised.

Staff cuts

Alphabet of course had announced in January that it will cut 12,000 jobs worldwide, or roughly 6 percent of its workforce – a move that has angered some within the business.

This latest remote working clampdown is perhaps one of the most determined attempts by Google to convince workers to return to the office, in a post pandemic world.

In April 2021 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

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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