Tech giant Google recently announced it will allow almost all of its 200,000 employees work from home through June of next year, according to multiple news outlets. The announcement made Google the first major company in the U.S. to grant such an extensive work from home timetable due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alphabet (Google’s parent company) Chief Executive Sundar Pichai made the decision last month after discussing the situation with Google Leads, a group of top executives he leads, someone familiar with the matter told The Wall Street Journal.
“I know it hasn’t been easy,” Pichai wrote in a staff email. “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.”
Initially, Pichai planned to let a small number of Google employees return to the offices in July while sticking to social distancing guidelines and keeping the company’s buildings at 10 percent occupancy, according to TechCrunch. If all went well, the company planned to scale up to 30 percent occupancy in September. Pichai said at that point people who wanted to come in to the office could do so on a limited basis, while the company prioritized who as entering the Google buildings.
Pichai extended the work from home policy partly to help employees who have families plan for uncertain school years that could include at-home teaching depending on where they live. The extension also allows employees to sign year-long leases if they want to move.
Workplace experts have noted that extended work from home policies might not work for some industries, like financial services that need superior trading floors and other technology that can’t be copied in a lot of home offices. Tech companies like Google however are better equipped for their employees working remotely for several months.
“Collaboration is certain important,” CoStar analyst Joseph Biasi told The Wall Street Journal. “But a coder does not get a competitive advantage from receiving information quicker than a coder in another firm.”
Other tech firms are still determining their return strategies. Microsoft said October would be the earliest it would reopen its New York offices, depending on where things were with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“(For now) we continue to recommend that most employees work remotely,” a Microsoft spokeswoman said.
Twitter meanwhile hasn’t set a reopening date and has said its offices will only return to 20 percent occupancy when they do open again. The social media company has told its employees they can work remotely indefinitely if they want to.
For now, Google’s doors will remain closed until July 1, 2021 at the earliest and the company will reassess then.
“We are still learning a lot from our experiences of working from home and will use that knowledge to inform our approach to the future of work at Google,” Pichai wrote in his staff email.
Joe Dyton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.