Google has announced it's ending its voluntary Work-From-Home on April 4, with employees based in the Bay Area and several other locations in the US expected to come into the office.
Like many companies, Google employees have been relying on web conferencing services to collaborate on projects since the world went into lockdown back in 2020, but it's definitely one of the keenest to get people back into physical offices spaces.
However, whether it really is the right time to be making the leap from remote to hybrid working – or going back to the office full-time – remains an open question.
Why is Google Ending the Voluntary WFH Period
John Casey, Google’s Vice President of Global Benefits, cited the “long” and “challenging” two years the company’s staff have had working remotely when explaining why Google is ending the voluntary work-from-home period, as well as the fall in Covid case numbers in the US since January.
“Advances in prevention and treatment, the steady decline in cases that we continue to see, and the improved safety measures we have implemented across our Bay Area sites now mean we can officially begin the transition to the hybrid workweek” – John Casey.
The company now expects all workers on its payroll to come into the office three days a week and stay at home for the remaining two.
CNBC reports that “nearly 14,000” of the company’s 156,000 employees are across the globe have switched to remote working permanently after applying for the privilege to do so, which amounts to around 85% of all staff members who applied.
Google's Rules Relaxed
The end of voluntary working-from-home comes after Google announced last week that it would be shedding its previously instated Covid-19 mandates for workers in the San Francisco Bay Area offices.
Prior to last week, the tech giant had required all employees to test before coming into the office, even if they were vaccinated. That rule has now been scrapped.
Google told CNBC that the company has u-turned on the decision to make employment conditional on vaccination, but did not offer any further information on why that was. Employees coming into the office, however, will need proof of vaccination or a legitimate reason for exemption.
Perks are also back for Google employees, including access to ‘informal' areas in office spaces and free massages for all employees.
Is The Pandemic Over, and Should we be Really Going Back to the Office?
Declining infection rates combined with a now heavily vaccinated workforce and no new variant since November of last year have galvanized companies like Google – which would prefer their workforce to be in physical office spaces – to ditch their WFH setup.
For Google, Microsoft, and Amazon, the return to the office was always a matter of when, rather than if – the tech behemoths have spent much of the past 12 months buying up new office space in a variety of US locations.
But that doesn’t make the decision right for everyone. Some staff teams have found working from home works well for them, and improvements to web conferencing services and other technology that helps facilitate remote working have made that even easier.
The twists and turns the Covid-19 pandemic has taken over the last two years means it's anyone’s guess where we’ll be this time next week, let alone in six months. Whilst Google won’t be alone in transitioning from fully remote to hybrid working arrangements, it won’t be surprising if other companies are a little bit more hesitant.