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Google workers will stay remote until summer 2021

Experts predict the tech company’s decision to keep employees remote amid the pandemic may spur others to push back reopening plans.
By: | July 27, 2020 • 4 min read
(Photo by Carsten Koall/Getty Images)

Google reportedly will keep its employees remote until at least July 2021 amid the coronavirus pandemic, becoming one of the first companies to extend remote working into the middle of next year.

The tech company’s move will affect nearly all of the roughly 200,000 full-time and contract employees across Google parent Alphabet Inc., the Wall Street Journal reported.

Google’s decision comes as many employers consider their reopening plans months into the coronavirus pandemic. Although some have begun bringing workers back into offices, others have embraced remote work options longer than expected, spurred by rising coronavirus numbers and employees’ hesitation and concerns over returning to physical workspaces.

Arran Stewart, co-founder of the job search platform Job.com, says Google’s decision to keep employees remote until the middle of next year is a smart move considering the uncertainty of the virus, and he predicts it may spur others to push back reopening plans, too.

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“I think it’s likely other employers will follow suit,” he says. “Remote working is already exponentially more popular than ever, and no concrete mitigation plans for the virus have materialized on a national level in the U.S.”

Jay Jamrog, futurist and co-founder of research firm i4cp, agrees that any employer’s decision to continue to embrace remote work options as the pandemic continues is wise. “It’s about being empathetic and having compassion for what employees are going through and how they’re feeling,” he says. “There are a lot of employees who don’t feel safe; they don’t want to go to work and catch the [virus] or bring it home to their families. The wellbeing of employees is huge and it’s the right thing to do.”

Jamrog adds that a number of employers have seen success in remote work in the last several months and advises they shouldn’t rush to bring them back if they can do their work remotely.

Some employers aren’t just extending remote work options during the pandemic, they’re planning to embrace them indefinitely. Twitter said in May it is giving its employees the option to work from home “forever.” Facebook announced that, starting in 2021, some experienced employees can apply for permanent remote status, with an estimated up to 50% of the workforce working outside a company office in the next five to 10 years.

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Meanwhile, 82% of company leaders surveyed by research firm Gartner say their organizations plan to permit employees to work remotely at least part of the time even after the COVID-19 pandemic. What’s more, nearly half (47%) say they intend to allow employees to work remotely full time going forward. For some organizations, flex time will be the new norm, as 43% of survey respondents reported they will grant employees flex days, while 42% will provide flex hours. Gartner surveyed 127 HR, legal and compliance, finance and real estate professionals for results.

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Related: HR leaders plan to embrace remote work post-pandemic

Stewart says that no matter what employers’ decisions are regarding remote work during—or after—the pandemic, company leaders should quickly make those decisions and communicate plans to their employees.

“In order to keep workers feeling secure and productive, leaders should make these determinations quickly and implement the necessary planning and infrastructure to make long-term remote work possible,” he says. “This could mean hiring remote work experts to retrain management and staff, reallocating resources to ensure that all employees can perform at their highest level or reconfiguring how the business recruits and hires new talent.”

Kathryn Mayer is HRE’s benefits editor and chair of the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference. She has covered benefits for the better part of a decade, and her stories have won multiple awards, including a Jesse H. Neal Award and honors from the American Society of Business Publication Editors and the National Federation of Press Women. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Denver. She can be reached at kmayer@lrp.com.

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