Google plans to work from home two days a week post Covid…

Source: Lenovo

Source: Lenovo

  • CEO Pichai says Google will implement a ‘hybrid’ work regime 
  • But  is still working on a policy which will probably be announced in September
  • In the mean time its california workers can continue working from home

Google was one of the first big companies to sanction ‘work from home’ (WFH) at the outset of the pandemic and its move lent encouragement to the rush homeward for many other companies, including several of its tech giant peers.

So just over one year on, has its apparent enthusiasm been maintained? Or is it now keen to see a drift back to work? 

The original Google work from home policy - which promised ongoing work from home for those that wanted it, wouldn’t have been a slam-dunk decision for CEO Sundar Pichai either. Google attributes much of its tech success to its campus-style work environment - you know, the skateboarding in the office, communal work areas, free snacks and all the rest of it - which means that a range of views would have been exchanged at the top of the tree on how to maintain the Googliness of their teams if and when they were physically dispersed. 

On the other hand, this is Google we’re talking about: ever keen to monitor and experiment, so the “let’s give ‘work from home’ a proper try and see what happens” view prevailed. 

Perhaps it’s an obvious outcome, but Google has gone for a flexible ‘hybrid’ approach, if you pull the main points out of an internal email sent out by CEO Pichai (which naturally fell into the possession of media outlets everywhere, including Bloomberg). The message is that the WFH policy will be adjusted to allow more employees to work from home in future. In the meantime the company will gradually open offices (where the pandemic allows). In California this means employees can work remotely without hindrance until September when new guidelines on who can work from home when and for how long will be introduced.  

The overall message is that the hybrid policy recognises that - pandemic or no pandemic - working from home and working in the office both have value for employees (and the company) so a mix of the two work environments might be beneficial for all concerned. 

Cost savings

For instance the various savings that Google accrued through the pandemic may add up to around $1 billion when things like travel costs are taken into account. There may also be a long term saving in office space costs if the hybrid regime means office space might be shared with fewer co-workers on a day by day basis. 

Then there is the carbon footprint/sustainability goals that all companies are keen on bagging - a big reduction in commuting due to the proportion of time spent working from home is a huge carbon saver, and so on.

In the email Pichai implies that Google will allow about 60 per cent of its staff to work in the office for a few days a week.  Where offices had already opened, Pichai says nearly 60% of staff have chosen to come back and he envisaged that in the longer run 20% would be in new office locations with the other 20% choosing to work from home.

In terms of the numbers of days in each location, he said that teams would come together in the office "approximately three days" a week, and work "wherever suits them best" for two days.

Some teams, though, would "need to be on site more than three days a week due to the nature of the work.”

Some other big tech outfits, such as Twitter, have so far allowed most staff to continue working remotely on a permanent basis. Facebook is starting to reopen its US offices about now with a view to an eventual full opening - with safety measures in place, of course - but it expects its largest offices will still be half empty in September. 

It’s fairly clear that the exact rules for Google’s ‘hybrid’ working model have yet to be worked out, much will depend on how the returning staff ‘settle in’. Some of those who return  to the office with a spring in their step, may feel differently and desire more home time once the novelty wears off, while those at home might wonder what they’re missing at work with all their colleagues back in position. 

Google will be watching and analysing. 

Of particular interest will be the different office/home balances of those in different age groups; possessing different home responsibilities and so on. What’s clear is that Pichai’s starting position is that individual employees in conjunction with their teams are probably the best arbiters of their office/home hybrid balance.

Google has become a sort of global lead on hybrid working. Most office worker-heavy service sector organisations have at least some of the dynamics of a Google about them and Google’s own businesses have many hybrid-work touch points - via networks, cloud services, remote working technology, services and so on. 

Hardly any businesses will ever look like Google, but many will continue to look more and more like it regarding office work as time, transformation and cloud migration continues.

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