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Google Delays Reopening Offices

Despite other companies announcing employees can continue remote working indefinitely, Google has joined other Major tech firms like Uber, Twitter, Netflix, and Apple in delaying plans to return to office as Covid cases in the US rise due to the emergence of a highly transmissible variant of the virus.

These changes come amid the spread of the Delta variant, which now accounts for more than 80% of new coronavirus cases in the US.

On Wednesday, Google said it would delay reopening from early September to mid-October. The company also announced a policy that would eventually require all workers who return to be vaccinated. Apple similarly has moved its reopening date to at least October.

In an email to more than 130,000 Google employees worldwide, chief executive officer Sundar Pichai said the company is now aiming to have most of its workforce back to its offices beginning 18 October instead of its previous target date of 1 September.

This delay affects tens of thousands of contractors who Google intends to continue to pay while access to its campuses remains limited.

“This extension will allow us time to ramp back into work while providing flexibility for those who need it,” Pichai wrote. This marks the third time Google has pushed back the date for fully reopening its offices.

Pichai said that once offices are fully reopened, everyone working there will have to be vaccinated. The requirement will first be imposed at Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, California, and other US offices, and will later be extended to the more than 40 other countries where Google operates.

Facebook announced a similar policy following Google’s Wednesday announcement, saying it will make vaccines mandatory for US employees who work in its offices. Apple is reportedly also considering requiring vaccines.

Uber announced Friday it would delay its office reopening and require vaccines when workers are allowed back. Twitter last week also halted reopening plans and closed offices due to the Delta variant.

“This is the stuff that needs to be done, because otherwise we are endangering workers and their families,” said Dr Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University and a former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore. “It is not fair to parents to be expected to come back to work and sit shoulder-to-shoulder with unvaccinated people who could be carrying a potentially deadly virus.”

Because children under the age of 12 aren’t currently eligible to be vaccinated, parents can bring the virus home to them from the office if they are around unvaccinated colleagues, Wen said.

The delays from these companies could influence other large employers to take similar precautions, given that the technology industry has been at the forefront of the shift to remote work triggered by the spread of Covid-19. Many others in the tech industry have decided to let employees do their jobs from remote locations permanently.

LinkedIn on Thursday reversed a previous decision to require a return to the office, saying its 16,000 employees will have the option to work from home indefinitely. It initially said workers would be required to come back to the office at least 50% of the time. However, those who relocate from cities such as San Francisco to cheaper locations in the US will have their pay docked based on local market rates, the company told Reuters.

Even before the World Health Organization declared a pandemic in March 2020, Google, Apple and many other prominent tech firms had been telling their employees to work from home.

Google’s decision to require employees working in the office to be vaccinated comes on the heels of similar moves affecting hundreds of thousands government workers in California and New York as part of stepped-up measures to fight the Delta variant. On Thursday Joe Biden announced a mandate that all federal government workers be vaccinated.

The rapid rise in cases during the past month has prompted more public health officials to urge stricter measures to help overcome vaccine scepticism and misinformation.

PD Admin

Staff writer, The Postdale Daily

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