Google Delays Office Return to 2022 Due to COVID-19 Surge

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Tech giant Google pushed back the date of when its workers must transition from Google Meet to its physical offices until after Jan. 10, 2022, due to the global surge of COVID-19 cases largely caused by the delta variant.

Employees have the option of working in-person on a voluntary basis until at least Jan. 10, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google and its parent company, Alphabet, wrote in an email to staff on Tuesday

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“As offices continue to reopen, we hope to see more teams coming together where possible, whether it be for regular team meetings, brainstorming sessions around a whiteboard, or outdoor socials,” Pichai wrote in the email, which he published online. “For some locations, conditions are starting to improve, yet in many parts of the world the pandemic continues to create uncertainty.”

Pichai promised to give staffers a month’s notice before requiring workers to come back to the office, though he did not specify a date when employees based in the U.S. or internationally would be required to return. 

“Beyond January 10, we will enable countries and locations to make determinations on when to end voluntary work-from-home based on local conditions, which vary greatly across our offices,” Pichai wrote.

Google previously pushed back its office return in late July to Oct. 18, again citing concerns over spiking coronavirus cases. It joined a number of technology and social media firms doing the same, including Apple and Amazon for its corporate staff, at least. Google also announced that workers trading in their laptops for desktops must be vaccinated, a policy that still applies, according to a spokesperson from the company.

In April, Google called some of its employees back into the office on a voluntary basis that varied by state. At the time, it said the opening of its offices would be determined by the availability of vaccinations and the number of positive COVID-19 infections in an area.

While the April announcement came only four months ago, the rapid change in the pandemic — from the new, more contagious delta variant to growing, positive case counts — has produced more uncertainty for the tech company and others hoping to get workers back in cubicles.

“The road ahead may be a little longer and bumpier than we hoped, yet I remain optimistic that we will get through it together,” Pichai wrote in the email. “It’s heartening to see Googlers starting to come back to more offices globally.”

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.