Google Delays Return to Office and Eyes ‘Flexible Work Week’

With the pandemic still in full swing and the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine just starting to ship in the United States, Google has pushed back the planned return to the office by a few months, to September 2021.

But even as it extends the remote work period for most of its staff, Google is laying out a series of proposed changes that may substantially alter how its employees and people at other technology companies will work.

In an email to the staff on Sunday night, Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said the company was testing the idea of a “flexible workweek” once it is safe to return to the office. Under the pilot plan, employees would be expected to work at least three days a week in the office for “collaboration days” while working from home the other days.

“We are testing a hypothesis that a flexible work model will lead to greater productivity, collaboration, and well-being,” Mr. Pichai wrote in an email obtained by The New York Times. “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.”

One thing not mentioned in Mr. Pichai’s email is whether the company will require employees to take the coronavirus vaccine before returning to the office. Google has said it recommends that employees obtain the vaccine when their health care provider or local public health authority has told them it’s available to them, said Gina Scigliano, a Google spokeswoman. Google has said it is looking for opportunities in mid-to-late 2021 to help make Covid-19 vaccines available to its workers, but only after high-risk and high-priority people globally have received the vaccines.

The timing of Google’s plan to roll out the flexible work schedules is still up in the air, because of the different state of the coronavirus in different countries. And the new schedules may not apply to some Google employees, like workers who spend lots of time with customers or employees at its data centers or labs.

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By Daisuke Wakabayashi Dec. 14, 2020
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