It’s been a subdued summer for most of us, with none of the usual vacation plans and get-togethers. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be making plans for next year — and for Google, those hot summer 2021 plans involve… continuing to work from home. In an announcement today, the tech giant revealed that it planned to have most of its 200,000 employees, including contractors, work from home until at least July of next year.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the decision was made last week by CEO Sundar Pichai, and will apply not only to those working in Silicon Valley, but other Google offices across the US, as well as in Brazil, India, and the UK. Pichai was reportedly influenced by child care considerations for his employees, given that it’s unclear whether schools will reopen this autumn. In California, where its headquarters are, COVID-19 cases have been surging.
Google employees in its North American offices began working from home in mid-March, initially until 10th April, then pushed the reopen date to July of this year and then to September before announcing its latest date. Google isn’t alone in setting a long-term timeline for returning to offices. Twitter announced in mid-May that its employees could WFH indefinitely. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that he expects half of its workforce to go fully remote in the next 5 to 10 years. Google has been more hesitant about committing to a fully remote workforce, with Pichai saying in an interview in late May that it was still too early to tell how much would change for Google. Amazon recently announced its corporate work-from-home policy will be extended to January 2021. Microsoft’s employees are allowed to work from home through October, and it’s unclear if that’s going to be extended.
Tech companies have been at the forefront of long-term work-from-home policies, but the ability to be fully remote is still uncommon overall. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 63% of jobs in the US “require significant onsite presence.” Among workers making the lowest 25% of wages, only 1% have a flexible workplace that allows at least some remote work. People working in hospitality and retail have talked about feeling pressured to return to work as soon as possible, without reassurances that their safety would be taken seriously.
Those lucky enough to work for some of the biggest tech companies are also receiving serious perks as they continue to work from their home office for at least the rest of the year. Companies like Google and ecommerce platform Shopify have given their employees a $1,000 (£850) allowance to buy WFH equipment. But there’s also the possibility that long-term WFH may mean companies start considering cost-of-living adjustments for workers who move away to cheaper areas. Facebook announced in late May that employees who leave Silicon Valley may face a pay cut. Many experts are predicting a shift in what kind of jobs are available and where people live as a consequence of COVID-19.
Though many industries have suffered from the economic downturn that’s resulted from COVID-19 shutdowns, tech companies like Microsoft have seen their stock values go up because more people are working from home. Stocks of video conferencing software Zoom are up 243% compared to last year. Last week, CNBC reported that just 6 companies now make up 49% of the NASDAQ 100’s value: Alphabet (Google’s parent company), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Tesla.