Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai shared his vision of the search giant’s new hybrid return-to-work plans via an internal message from the chief executive to his employees. The plan would call for around 60% of Googlers coming together in the office for a few days a week, while another 20% will work in new office locations and 20% are anticipated to work remotely.
In his post, Pichai first offered some perspective, writing, “For more than 20 years, our employees have been coming to the office to solve interesting problems—in a cafe, around a whiteboard or during a pickup game of beach volleyball or cricket. Our campuses have been at the heart of our Google community and the majority of our employees still want to be on campus some of the time.”
The future of work at Google is flexibility. The majority of our employees still want to be on campus some of the time yet many would also enjoy the flexibility of working from home a couple days a week…
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) May 6, 2021
He then acknowledged the desires of his team, stating, “Many of us would also enjoy the flexibility of working from home a couple days of week, spending time in another city for part of the year or even moving there permanently. Google’s future workplace will have room for all of these possibilities.”
Pichai went on to offer the details of the plan. “We’ll move to a hybrid workweek, where most Googlers spend approximately three days in the office and two days wherever they work best.” He advised that there will “be roles that may need to be on site more than three days a week due to the nature of the work.”
…spending time in another city for part of the year, or even moving there permanently. Google’s future workplace will have room for all of these possibilities. We’re moving to a hybrid work week with most Googlers in the office approximately 3 days a week.
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) May 6, 2021
Regarding remote work, he said in the memo, “We’ll also offer opportunities for you to apply for completely remote work (away from your team or office) based on your role and team needs.” Employees could apply for remote work within their product areas or ask for transfers to different locations.
He also raised a point, which might not be well-received by the Googlers, “Whether you choose to transfer to a different office or opt for completely remote work, your compensation will be adjusted according to your new location.”
Going forward, Googlers will have the availability to work on a temporary basis from locations outside of their main office for a period of up to four weeks per year with the consent of the person’s manager. The goal is intended to offer flexibility, especially during the summer and holiday season.
Google and other companies are facing a conundrum. After over one year of working at home, people have grown accustomed to it. While not perfect, most employees like the work-life balance—not having to commute back and forth, wasting hours a day.
The prevailing consensus among corporations is the flexible hybrid system in which some people will be in the office two or three days a week, a large percentage would require full remote work and a few may want to be in the office everyday. Then, you have outliers. like digital nomads, who go from place to place, and those who decided to move somewhere less expensive to save money.
Managers will try to be empathetic, but it won’t be easy to navigate all of these competing interests and different schedules and time zones. It’s likely, despite the rhetoric of remote work, executives will push hard to get everyone under one roof.
As Google has mapped out a plan for returning to work, the company has been building and repurposing office spaces to make them highly attractive, particularly to the coveted Gen-Z and younger Millennials. The offices are being built to make them as—or more—attractive than living in a small apartment or being at home with their parents.
Google has been creating a post-pandemic workplace that will attract and keep people at the office. “Instead of rows of desks next to cookie-cutter meeting rooms, Google is designing ‘Team Pods.’ Each pod is a blank canvas: chairs, desks, whiteboards and storage units on casters can be wheeled into various arrangements, and in some cases rearranged in a matter of hours,” reported the New York Times.
The company has created a new type of meeting room, called “Campfire.” Instead of sitting at an austere, mahogany-wood conference table in a sterile room, Googlers would sit in a circle with huge screens for video conferences to accommodate remote workers and those at different locations.
Google is building cool, outdoor hangouts. The company’s Silicon Valley headquarters converted a parking lot and lawn area into “Camp Charleston,” which offers greenery and wooden-deck flooring. There will be tables and chairs sprinkled around, as well as open-air tents. Meetings could be held in large “teepees” that boast high-end video conferencing technology.
This architectural trend seems like a savvy way to entice more people to return to the office.