Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, Silicon Valley’s leading tech companies have consistently been the first to plan out a specific timetable for work arrangements. They also tend to be the most cautious when it comes to reopening; Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft have all told employees to work from home for the rest of 2020. But now, with COVID-19 cases surging higher than ever in the U.S. and many other countries, some of these tech giants are extending the remote work policy even further, betting that the pandemic isn’t going away for at least another year.
On Monday, Google said on it will allow its 200,000 employees and contract workers to work from home for another 12 months. Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai made the decision himself last week after discussing the matter with a group of top executives, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“I know it hasn’t been easy. I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months,” Pichai wrote in a note to staff on Monday confirming the extension after Journal reported the inside talk.
The extended timeline applies to Google employees in most of its major offices in the U.S., the U.K., India, Brazil and other countries. Google has partially opened some smaller offices in countries less hard hit by the pandemic, such as Australia, Greece and Thailand.
“To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office,” Google said in a statement.
Other tech companies are expected to follow the suit soon.
“My guess is 1) Their models suggest COVID is not going away,” Wired magazine Editor in Chief Nick Thompson tweeted to the news on Monday. “2) Work from home is going reasonably well there.”
Wow. Google is telling its employees that they'll be working from home until the summer of 2021. My guess is 1) Their models suggest COVID is not going away 2) WFH is going reasonably well there. https://t.co/omUSHogEiJ
— nxthompson (@nxthompson) July 27, 2020
It’s true that remote working has done well for most internet-centric companies, although there’s growing concerns over its negative impact on productivity, morale, mental health and company culture.
In late May, Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey told employees at both companies that they can work from home forever if they want to, after observing that this work arrangement hasn’t hurt the company’s productivity. Facebook quickly made a similar announcement to allow most of its full-time employees work remotely indefinitely. (However, don’t expect Bay Area salaries if you work from a budget-friendly town.)
“We are still learning a lot from our experiences of working from home and will use that knowledge to inform our approach to the future of work at Google,” Pichai wrote in Monday’s staff memo.