December 6, 2021: On Thursday, According to an email sent to employees and seen by CNBC, Google will not require its employees to return to offices on January 10 as expected after all.
The company’s security VP, Chris Rackow, wrote in the email to full-time employees that it will wait until the new year to assess when U.S. offices can safely return to a “stable, long-term working environment.” None of the U.S. locations will adopt the hybrid working mandate on January 10 as planned, his email said.
The new guidance comes after several previous delays and as most of the company’s employees were expected to return to physical offices three days a week. It also comes as a small but growing portion of the company’s employees fighting its vaccine mandate.
Health officials in the U.S. and worldwide say they are concerned that the new Covid-19 variant omicron, which has some 50 mutations, could prove more transmissible than previous strains and evade vaccines’ protection to some degree.
Rackow’s email said Google would allow specific locations to decide their timelines for returning their respective local workforces to the office. Google’s “Local Incident Response Teams” will also help determine each office’s “risk level,” it said.
Rackow said that while employees will no longer be required to return on January 10, the company still encourages employees to continue coming in “where conditions allow, to reconnect with colleagues in person and start regaining the muscle memory of being in the office more regularly.” The note said that the company would give all full-time employees who need it 30 days to transition to the hybrid schedule.
“We will be re-learning our working rhythms together in 2022, which brings new opportunities and new challenges as we experiment with more flexible ways of working,” he said.
He went on to say that the company has so far opened 90% of its U.S. offices and, in recent weeks, nearly 40% of its U.S. employees came in.
While Rackow’s email doesn’t mention the latest Covid variant, Google reportedly told its employees in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa that it would postpone its return-to-office plan for those locations as the new variant and travel restrictions continue to create uncertainty.
In a statement to CNBC, a company spokesperson said Google previously listed January 10 as the earliest date for a possible return and reiterated that it has safely opened more than 90% of its U.S. offices. “We’ll continue to determine when offices reopen and start the hybrid work week based on local conditions, which are dynamic and vary greatly across locations.”