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Home office: Google employees in the US don’t want to go back to the office

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google.

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google.

Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Google was one of the first large companies to send its employees to work from home in the first days of the pandemic. Now the company wants to bring the employees back to the office. However, some of them said they had no intention of returning. While many tech companies like Microsoft and Twitter have announced that they will give their employees the option to work from home permanently, Google has resisted it. The company does not want employees to work remotely all the time.

Frustrated employees have commented on this on social media. “I spoke to some of my colleagues at Google. They say they will quit if they are forced to return to the offices in September, ”Chris Broadfoot tweeted. Broadfoot works as a cloud programmer for Google. Other employees joined the conversation and confirmed the statement.

Half a dozen Google employees spoke to NewsABC.net about it. They asked to remain anonymous as they weren’t authorized by Google to speak to the press. However, they all shared a similar opinion on the matter. They said they also know colleagues who moved during the pandemic and couldn’t come back to the office at all. “Many of my colleagues have moved away with no intention of coming back,” said one of the employees. “Especially in the age group between 30 and 40 years.” The same employee said that he had even quit himself. He had expressed a wish to work in a location outside of the Bay Area, but his supervisor declined.

Google has released conflicting information

Another employee said at least two executives in his department had moved permanently during the pandemic. They didn’t expect to return to the office, he said. Google had told employees that they were expected back in the office by September 2021. As recently as last December, however, the company announced that it wanted to test a new flexible model in which employees should only work in the office three days a week.

Since then, however, Google has given few details about the new rule. Now the employees are urging management to provide answers. Google has never confirmed that it will offer remote working to anyone who wishes. But as the deadline for employees to return to the offices has been pushed back again and again, some have moved anyway. They bet that Google would eventually follow other companies in their home office policy.

For example, Facebook announced last year that it would allow employees to apply for full-time work from home. “There are already employees who are leaving the company because they don’t want to wait until September,” said a Google employee. “They want to get on with their lives.” A Google spokesman reported on the subject that the company will experiment with a number of projects related to remote work. But he also stated that nothing had changed in the existing regulation.

Google wants to be flexible – employees want to know how flexible

According to some internal Google surveys, there are also employees who want to return to the office. In one of these polls, conducted in 2020, 62 percent said they wanted to return to the office. However, only eight percent said they wanted to come back to the office full-time. In the past few months, CEO Sundar Pichai had made further hints that Google would consider flexibility when employees return.

Since then, questions about remote work have been asked repeatedly to management. “The question of working remotely after the pandemic is asked almost at every meeting,” said one employee. At an all-hands meeting last October, Pichai said he saw the majority of ‘Googlers’ still bundled in one office. However, the company is planning to expand the number of offices to give employees more flexibility. “And we are also thinking about the question, ‘What does hybrid, flexible work mean in this context?'” He added.

Since that statement, employees have urged management to clarify how flexible Google wants to be and whether the three-day office rule should be applied evenly across the company. However, the staff said they had no replies yet. “Since there are no clear guidelines and communication is rather slow, we all advise what to do,” said one employee.

With its open office culture packed with amenities like snacks and sleeping bags, Google has plenty of reasons to keep working in the office. One employee said splitting teams between office and remote working could create an uncomfortable dynamic. Google continued to invest in physical work spaces even during the pandemic. It has also expanded its Mountain View, California headquarters with plans for a new campus in San Jose.

“At the moment I manage people in eight cities, spread over five time zones. What reason do I have to be in an office? “

On the final first quarter conference call this week, Ruth Porat, who serves as CFO of subsidiary Alphabet, said the subsidiary plans to invest $ 5.8 billion in offices and data centers by 2021. “We value bringing people together in the office,” she told an analyst during the conference call. “And we’re looking at a hybrid work-from-home / work-from-office model.”

However, some of the employees have already taken the plunge and moved away from their offices while waiting for answers. You don’t intend to go to the office for even three days. “I don’t intend to go to Seattle every day so I can flit from tiny room to tiny room while on the phone,” tweeted Justin Beckwith, a Google engineering manager. “At the moment I manage people in eight cities, spread over five time zones. What reason do I have to be in an office? “

Pushing employees back into the office could also mean losing talent to employers with more flexible arrangements. Three Google employees said they had received more messages from other companies’ recruitment agencies emphasizing their remote working guidelines. “I think that if they call all employees back in September they will suffer a loss of talent,” said one of these employees. “If I don’t have the opportunity to work from home at Google by next spring, I’ll look for other options,” said another, who wanted to move with his family.

At the moment, Google is still voluntarily allowing its employees to return to the reopened offices. However, employees must first pass a health screening and commit to following new health guidelines. For those who don’t want to return yet, it’s a waiting game. “It divides a large part of the workforce,” said one employee. “There are people who position themselves on the side of the returnees and people who are more committed to remote work. And internally there is a dispute because the management has not committed itself to a uniform plan and is sticking to it. People don’t know what September will look like. “

This article was translated from English and edited by Julia Knopf. You can read the original here.

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