Google speeds partial office reopening and puts limits on remote work

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, speaks on stage during the annual Google I / O Developer Conference on May 8, 2018 in Mountain View, California.

Stephen Lam | Reuters

Google, one of the first major U.S. companies to send employees home due to the coronavirus, is setting new guidelines for remote working to expedite plans to get employees back into the office.

With millions more Americans being vaccinated every day, Google is accelerating reopening plans in some parts of the US on a voluntary basis ahead of the September 1st returns deadline, according to internal documents viewed by CNBC. Due to vaccine availability and a downward trend in Covid-19 cases, offices will reopen in April in limited capacity.

“It’s now been a year since many of us have worked from home and the thought of going back to the office could provoke different emotions,” Fiona Cicconi, Google’s new HR director, wrote on Wednesday in a company-wide e- Mail. Cicconi advised employees to get the Covid-19 vaccine but said it was not mandatory.

If employees want to work remotely for more than 14 days a year after September 1st, they must officially apply for this according to a separate notice with the inscription “Need to know”. You can apply for up to 12 months under “the most exceptional circumstances”. However, the company can call employees back to their assigned office at any time, the message says.

Google is preparing for a major reopening in September, with employees expected to show up in person three days a week. The company takes a different approach than industry peers like Facebook and Twitter, who promised to allow most remote work to be indefinitely.

In a statement emailed to CNBC, Google confirmed the memos, adding that “permanent moves are still on hold for personal reasons”.

CNBC first reported in December that Google has abandoned the idea of ​​remote working and expects workers to live “within the commute” of offices.

Cicconi wrote in Wednesday’s email that staff will be returning to redesigned offices where owners can bring their dogs. She said the planning work was led by the company’s Real Estate and Workplace Services groups.

“The offices won’t look exactly how you remember them, but our great REWS teams are doing their best to make you comfortable, including providing meals, snacks and amenities where possible,” said Cicconi. “We’ll even welcome our Dooglers back.”

Cicconi warned staff to “remain vigilant to prevent another wave of the virus,” adding that Brazil is “having significant difficulty” with rising cases.

Those employees who left the Bay Area during the pandemic to reduce stress and perhaps save money may have an incentive to return. In one of the notes on Wednesday, the company said it could adjust employee salaries based on where they work.

Axios previously reported on Google’s plans to have some employees return in April.

Look now: Google is extending remote working until September 1st and rejecting permanent remote working

Correction: This story has been updated to take into account that employees who wish to work remotely for more than 14 days per year after September 1 must submit a formal application. In an earlier version, the circumstances that would require application were incorrectly characterized.

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