Thousands of technology wizards and other Google staff employed in the UK have been told to keep working from home for another year. While the UK government is keen to boost the economy by refilling offices around the country, some of the biggest companies in the country are less keen.
The Nat West Group (formerly RBS), along with a number of other corporate giants including Standard Life Aberdeen, has also told 50,000 staff to work from home until at least the end of the year. That’s despite the government still holding a major stake in the bank after bailing it out in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.
However, Google’s extension to its stay at home policy for 4500 UK employees is the longest yet. They do not now have to be present in the office until next July. The move, announced by Google chief executive Sundar Pichai, is not specific to the UK and counts for all of the company’s 200,000 full-time staff and contractors internationally.
Google has four offices in London and one in Manchester. Local retailers, cafes, lunch spots, pubs and restaurants will be disappointed by the news that well paid employees of the tech giant will be largely missing for another 12 months. The company is currently building a new 330m long headquarters in the King’s Cross area of London, due to open in 2022.
The UK’s official ‘work from home’ guidance will end on August 1st. It is hoped a mass return to office life will help mitigate the economic damage of the Covid-19 pandemic and resultant lockdown.
Google’s decision came after a debate between the company’s executives reported by The Wall Street Journal. A major factor in the decision were employee concerns around whether schools will reopen by the time they should return to office. It also gives Google employees the flexibility to leave the expensive cities like London and San Francisco where many are based, by giving them the option to sign full-year leases on out-of-town accommodation offering more space at a lower cost.
On Monday Mr Pichai told staff in a company-wide email:
“I know it hasn’t been easy. I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and loved ones over the next 12 months.”
“We are still learning a lot from our experiences of working from home and will use that knowledge to inform our approach to the future of work at Google.”
There will be some exceptions to the work from home policy as certain jobs, such as testing new hardware or maintenance of data centres, do require physical presence. A company spokesperson released a statement confirming the decision:
“To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021, for roles that don’t need to be in the office.”
Tech companies have proven to be among the most relaxed about offering staff the extended option to work from home. As early as May Facebook told its 45,000 employees they would be able to permanently work from home if they chose to do so. Over the next five to ten years the company plans to move to a predominantly remote workforce. Twitter, which employs 5000, has also said most will be given the freedom to choose where they work indefinitely.