Google Delays Return-to-Office to January 2022, Citing Delta Concern

Google is reportedly delaying employees’ return to its offices until January 2022, driven by fears of the surging Delta variant of COVID-19. The search engine giant’s original plan had the vast majority of employees returning by this October.

“For some locations, conditions are starting to improve, yet in many parts of the world the pandemic continues to create uncertainty,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an Aug. 31 memo to employees. “Acknowledging that, we’ll extend our global voluntary return-to-office policy through January 10, 2022 to give more Googlers flexibility and choice as they ramp back.”

Beyond that January date, he added, “we will enable countries and locations to make determinations on when to end voluntary work-from-home based on local conditions, which vary greatly across our offices. To make sure everyone has ample time to plan, you’ll have a 30-day heads-up before you’re expected back in the office.”

Google joins other big tech companies that had pushed back their re-openings, including Apple, which announced in July that it would make Oct. 1 its new return-to-office date (unnamed sources also indicated to The New York Times that the date could shift if infections rose). 

And like many of those companies, Google also seems committed to a hybrid workweek model that will bring employees to the office for three days per week. Apple, Amazon, and other tech giants have made it clear that, for virtually all employees, full-time remote work simply won’t be an option once things return to (relatively) normal. 

Fortunately, many technologists find the prospect of hybrid work an enticing one. Dice’s 2021 Technologist Sentiment Report showed that, in the second quarter of 2021, some 85 percent of technologists wanted hybrid work, slightly but notably ahead of the 80 percent who preferred full-time (100 percent) remote work. So Google might not have to fight too hard to get many of its employees back to the office—whatever date that reopening happens to fall on.