As you may have read back in December, Google has stated it will be re-opening their offices in September of this year. This past week, they stated they would be reopening some offices in the next month. Why is this important? Well, if you think about what company out there is going to have the most information from which to determine when it is safe to reopen offices, the answer is likely Google.
If you recall, Google was one of the first large employers to move to a fully remote workforce globally last March. And then in August of last year when people thought it might be safe to reopen offices, Google announced they would continue working remotely until at least July of this year.
According to Fionna Cicconi, a senior vice president and Google’s Chief People Officer, “Offices will begin to open in a limited capacity based on specific criteria that include increases in vaccine availability and downward trends in Covid-19 cases. We advise you to get a vaccine, though it will not be mandatory to have one in order for Googlers to return to the office.”
In the December announcement of the September return date Google CEO Sundar Pichai mentioned a hybrid model that would require employees to be in the office at least three days a week to collaborate. “No company at our scale has ever created a fully hybrid work force model — though a few are starting to test it — so it will be interesting to try,” said Pichai.
Google’s move follows Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, and others in the tech community. The announcement however, does not move up the required date to start coming in from September. Employees can continue to work remotely until then. Coming into the office is voluntary until September. Google is also still allowing employees working from different countries until September 1st to return to the U.S.
Google is also allowing fourteen days of additional remote work after September, and employees can apply for additional days depending on their circumstances. As they stated back in December, they also expect employees to live within commuting distance to an office.
The opening of many offices, but not mandated returns, is coinciding with increased availability of vaccines and employees feeling more comfortable with their personal wellbeing in office situations. And as you might imagine, offices won’t be the same as they were pre-pandemic. Strict cleaning protocols and changes to open floor plans are among the differences employees will see.
“In the United States, the situation is also mixed and we must continue to stay vigilant to prevent a new wave of the virus. We are also seeing some hopeful improvements in parts of the country. I’m happy to say that over the next month, it is likely we’ll begin to welcome Googlers back to some of our U.S. offices on a voluntary basis,” said Cicconi.
Also making an announcement this past week is Amazon. In it they stated, “Our plan is to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline. We believe it enables us to invent, collaborate, and learn together most effectively.” Amazon never fully closed their offices, and didn’t institute a firm back to office date in the update. They mentioned that 10% of staff is coming in currently and they expect that number to increase throughout the summer. Their goal is to have almost everyone back in the office by the fall.
One of the best things you can do as you reopen your office is take a pulse of your company’s culture. Did it wane over the last year? Bringing everyone back is a good time to start focusing on how the office will be different. And different can often mean better with a proactive approach. If you’d like help ensuring your culture remains strong, send us a note.