While the debate continues over whether or not it’s safe to open schools and whether or not to have employees work from home or from the office (and for how long), Google is making some decisions about remote work and coming down firmly on the side of being more cautious and more proactive with regard to employee and workplace safety.
According to this report by Rob Copeland in The Wall Street Journal, the search-engine giant Google is extending its work-from-home policy until next summer—July 2021—at the earliest.
What prompted this decision?
In a statement sent out to Google employees, CEO Sundar Pichai explains:
“To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we’ll be extending our global voluntary work-from-home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office,” Pichai wrote. “I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months.”
Google’s parent company is Alphabet, Inc. and is led by Sundar Pichai. Pichai personally decided to extend the work-from-home policy for nearly all 200,000 full-time and contract employees across Alphabet after discussions with top executives at Google.
Google is headquartered in Mountain View, California, and had already afforded employees the opportunity to work from home in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. But now, instead of having regular and contract workers return in the coming five months, Google’s leadership is demonstrating sensitivity to coronavirus and its corresponding economic uncertainties to include school closure dilemmas. Hence, Google will allow employees the option to work from home for at least another year.
Here are two responses to Google’s work-from-home announcement.
Google establishes formal work-from-home policy as country debates how to best reopen.
The rising death and infection rates are forcing businesses to rethink how to best reopen so as to ensure workplace safety for their workers and customers and to reduce the spread of this virus altogether.
Though Google is now the first major company to officially establish such a lengthy and extended timeframe for return to “normal,” it is not alone in allowing employees to work from home for an extended period after the fallout Covid-19. Back in early May, Kathy Gurchiek with SHRM identified a few larger companies with extended work-from-home policies. She listed the following five companies as allowing their employees to work from home until September 2020 or beyond.
- Capital One
A lot has changed in the past two months. With infections and deaths continuing to increase, the healthcare system, the education industry and the economy all continue to struggle. Deep debate continues on how to best reopen the economy and return to some sense of normalcy. Congress is currently debating a fourth stimulus package after already pouring trillions of dollars into the economy via three prior coronavirus relieve bills. When you consider the ongoing struggling economy, it is likely that this move by Google will have a ripple effect to many other companies, including other tech giants as well as workforce industries beyond tech.
Many essential workers and low-wage earners are unable to work from home.
Ideally every company would devise a work-from-home policy amidst this pandemic because, ideally, the less human contact the better. But keeping everyone away from everyone else for extended periods of time is simply not possible. The University of Chicago Booth School of Business conducted research to understand just how many jobs can be entirely performed from home.
The report finds that only “37 percent of jobs in the United States can be performed entirely at home, with significant variation across cities and industries. These jobs typically pay more than jobs that cannot be done at home and account for 46 percent of all US wages. Applying our occupational classification to 85 other countries reveals that lower-income economies have a lower share of jobs that can be done at home.”
This lays open the higher coronavirus burdens and sacrifices that essential workers, minority workers and low-wage earners are being asked to bear. According to Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, the coronavirus pandemic has killed nearly 150,000 people in the U.S. with more than 4.3 million having become infected with coronavirus at one point or another. A disproportionate number of these deaths fall to essential workers and minority populations.