Google’s COVID-19 Response Includes Shutting Down In-Office Perks

Google is well-known throughout the tech industry for its sterling office perks. Employees at its headquarters are used to everything from gourmet cafeterias to onsite gym classes. But the COVID-19 pandemic might terminate some of those benefits, at least in the short term. 

A new report from Business Insider suggests that, as Google gradually reopens its offices, it will end those perks that encourage people to either congregate or else use the same spaces frequently. For example, the sleep pods and company gyms will be shut for the time being. The cafeterias will likewise stay closed, although the company will provide boxed meals for those employees in desperate need of midday calories.

Google’s corporate buildings will open with very limited capacity—10 percent to start, potentially growing to 30 percent by autumn. Those employees re-entering the office will wear masks, with redesigned offices ensuring they’ll stay six feet (or more) apart. 

Google’s gradual reopening echoes that at other big tech companies. At Apple, for example, employees reentering the office will need to wear masks and undergo regular temperature checks; kitchens and breakrooms are closed, and there are hard limits on how many people can enter an elevator at one time. Apple employees have been told that “phase one” of their reintroduction to the office will extend through June. If everything goes well, “phase two” may kick off in July with more employees returning. 

Other big tech firms, however, have used the COVID-19 pandemic to switch employee strategies entirely. For example, both Twitter and Facebook plan to ask the majority of their employees to work from home from now on.  

Whether they’re permanently working from home or heading into an office that, at least for the next year or two, will seem radically different, will employees miss the perks? One Dice survey from last year suggested that technologists would prefer a pay increase to perks; our more recent queries, meanwhile, show that employees quite like working from home (on average). Perhaps things like sushi in the cafeteria are a nice-to-have, but not viewed as essential to many technologists’ career happiness. 

Plus, not all perks are totally wonderful, as Google’s employees can attest. Last year, anonymous employees complained during a Blind survey that Google’s on-campus gyms lacked the equipment for intense bodybuilding workouts. Then again, if you’re nitpicking your company’s lack of extreme weights, chances are pretty good that they’re offering a comfortable perks package overall.