Google Extends COVID-19 Remote-Work Policy to Mid-2021

Google is extending its employees’ work-from-home mandate until July 2021 at the earliest, according to reports. The Wall Street Journal was first with the news, reporting that the revised order will impact 200,000 full-time and contract employees at Google and parent company Alphabet. 

A month ago, Google’s plans for reopening were more aggressive. Some 30 percent of staffers would re-enter the office by autumn, and they’d have to wear masks; Google planned on redesigning office space to ensure employees stayed six feet (or more) apart. In addition, the company’s world-famous amenities, including its cafeterias, would be shut down in order to prevent unnecessary mingling.

While that office redesign will likely continue, it seems that employees won’t be back for almost a year, if Google sticks to this revised timetable. There’s also the question of whether Google will shift tactics yet again at some point and allow the bulk of its employees to work remotely, as Twitter and Facebook plan to do even after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides. 

However, not every major tech company is shifting to a predominantly work-from-home mode. Apple, for instance, plans on gradually reintroducing employees to its massive headquarters building, although it will also shut down amenities and try to create enough space between workstations. 

Dice’s ongoing Sentiment Survey has shown that technologists really like working from home—and that if they had to choose an ideal schedule, it would involve a mix of remote and in-office work. Big tech firms’ decisions to shift to a remote-work configuration plays into that collective desire—and it could boost the pressure on Google to follow the example of Twitter and Facebook, even after the pandemic fades away. If you’re a software engineer with in-demand skills, for example, and you value a flexible schedule, would you want to work for the firm that allowed you to come into headquarters just once or twice a week, or the one that wanted you at your office desk every weekday?

For companies, having remote workers can translate into tangible benefits, as well. Technologists told Dice that they feel more productive and in-control of their schedule when they work remotely, which could make for smoother workflows (and thus projects that arrive on-schedule and on-budget). Also, office space is expensive to build out and maintain; the less of it, the less overhead. 

That being said, many executives and project managers like having technologists in the office, which they feel boosts collaboration. Although studies have shown that it’s possible to maintain effective team cohesion while working remotely, it may require a change in tactics for best results. Hopefully these companies have worked all that through before proceeding with their broader remote-work plans.