Google to end work-from-home option for most Bay Area workers

With COVID waning and vaccination rates high in the Bay Area, Google will stop letting most employees do their jobs remotely, and will this month start putting workers on a three-days-in-the-office routine, the company said Wednesday.

The mandate follows four aborted attempts by the Mountain View digital-advertising giant to resume office-based work among the shifting threats of the coronavirus pandemic, and changing public-health orders. Most recently, Google in December announced plans to end the voluntary remote work option Jan. 10, but amid the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant, delayed the office return to an unspecified date.

Google’s Bay Area offices are among the company’s select U.S. locations where the new “hybrid” model mixing remote and office work will be imposed, the company said Wednesday. Google has about 45,000 employees in this region, a spokesperson said.

Employees can spend March adjusting to the new workplace scheme, and the company expects the hybrid model to be fully operational April 4, Google said in a press release.

To enter offices, workers will have to be vaccinated against COVID, or if unvaccinated, must work under company-approved restrictions including masking and regular COVID testing, Google said.

Fifteen-minute drop-in counseling sessions will be available for workers needing help adapting to the new model, the company said.

Workers can apply for location transfers or fully remote work, Google said, adding that it has approved about 85% of such requests from employees around the world since June, with about 14,000 workers receiving approval.

Google’s move comes as Bay Area health authorities have dramatically relaxed COVID-based restrictions, with Santa Clara County on Wednesday joining the rest of the counties in the region in lifting its indoor mask mandate.

The firm’s decision to bring workers back to offices indicates that despite the popularity of remote employment among many technology workers and a conclusion by the Bay Area Council that 45% of Bay Area jobs could be done remotely, Google is committed to office-based operations. The company has been expanding its footprint in the Bay Area, where it is planning an 80-acre complex in San Jose that would mix 7.3 million square feet of offices, 4,000 residential units and 500,000 square feet of retail space. In December, Santa Clara County documents showed Google paid $73.5 million in cash for a building in Mountain View across the street from its Googleplex headquarters.

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