Google delays return to office and eyes ‘flexible work week’


By: New York Times |

Updated: December 14, 2020 7:19:49 pm

Colorful chairs in entrance of a constructing on the Google campus in Mountain View, California. (Image supply: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg)

By Daisuke Wakabayashi

With the pandemic nonetheless in full swing and the primary doses of a coronavirus vaccine simply beginning to ship within the United States, Google has pushed again the deliberate return to the office by a number of months, to September 2021.

But even because it extends the distant work interval for many of its workers, Google is laying out a sequence of proposed adjustments which will considerably alter how its workers and folks at different know-how corporations will work.

In an electronic mail to the workers on Sunday evening, Sundar Pichai, chief govt of Google’s mum or dad firm, Alphabet, mentioned the corporate was testing the thought of a “flexible workweek” as soon as it’s protected to return to the office. Under the pilot plan, workers could be anticipated to work a minimum of three days per week within the office for “collaboration days” whereas working from house the opposite days.

“We are testing a hypothesis that a flexible work model will lead to greater productivity, collaboration, and well-being,” Pichai wrote in an electronic mail obtained by The New York Times. “No company at our scale has ever created a fully hybrid workforce model — though a few are starting to test it — so it will be interesting to try.”

One factor not talked about in Pichai’s electronic mail is whether or not the corporate would require workers to take the coronavirus vaccine earlier than returning to the office. Google has mentioned it recommends that workers acquire the vaccine when their well being care supplier or native public well being authority has instructed them it’s accessible to them, mentioned Gina Scigliano, a Google spokeswoman. Google has mentioned it’s in search of alternatives in mid-to-late 2021 to assist make COVID-19 vaccines accessible to its employees, however solely after high-risk and high-priority folks globally have acquired the vaccines.

The timing of Google’s plan to roll out the versatile work schedules continues to be up within the air, due to the totally different state of the coronavirus in several international locations. And the brand new schedules could not apply to some Google workers, like employees who spend a number of time with clients or workers at its knowledge facilities or labs.

In March, Google was one of many first corporations to inform workers to begin working from house earlier than different firms had a grasp on the dangers of working collectively in enclosed workplaces. It has repeatedly delayed the timing on when it expects workers to return to the office from January 2021 to July and now, September.

After such an extended interval of distant work, corporations are wrestling with how greatest to transition employees again into workplaces.

Last month, ViacomCBS instructed workers that it expects most of its workers to divide their time between working at house and in its workplaces. In doing so, the corporate mentioned a hybrid mannequin would permit extra flexibility for workers, whereas decreasing its actual property wants and maintaining prices down.

Reed Hastings, Netflix’s chief govt, has mentioned that he has not seen “any positives” from working at house and that not having the ability to get collectively to talk about concepts in particular person is a “pure negative.” However, he mentioned he anticipated the five-day workweek would turn out to be 4 days within the office and at some point distant after the pandemic.

Other corporations could take their cues from Google, which has been a pioneer for a lot of features of work life, particularly at know-how corporations. Google’s open and informal workplaces established the blueprint for a technology of startups, whereas its office perks like free snacks and complimentary companies have unfold all through the company world.

As a part of its extra versatile workplaces, Google mentioned it deliberate to put in place new office designs in areas with decrease coronavirus danger. It plans to provide choices to workers like reserving collaboration locations for up to a dozen folks and securing out of doors areas for bigger gatherings. For workers in want of a quiet area outdoors the house, Google will provide reservable desks at its workplaces.

Google additionally mentioned it deliberate to preserve creating new methods to assist workers bridge the hole between the expertise of working on the office and working from house, particularly for workers who could not reside in locations effectively suited to distant work. The firm mentioned it was creating in-office presentation cubicles for sending professional-quality broadcasts to teams on-line.

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