Google's Remote Work Plan Isn't That Big of a Deal

Not everyone looks to Google for their own business needs

Key Takeaways

  • Google’s 200,000 full-time and contract employees will remain working remotely until at least July 2021.
  • Many tech companies have found working from home to be beneficial for productivity and employee wellbeing so far. 
  • While some might look to Google for leadership here, many are making their own decisions to delay the return to “normal.”

Google plans on keeping all of its 200,000 full-time and contract employees working remotely until at least July 2021, according to a report from The Wall Street Journal. There’s a growing trend among tech companies to keep employees working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Google made the call at a relatively late date, though. Facebook, Twitter, and Square all previously announced similar plans. In fact, Twitter and Square plan for such work from home initiatives to continue indefinitely. Still, Google is kind of a big deal and bears watching.

Sundar Pichai at Google I/O
Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google's parent company, Alphabet, made the decision recently after a meeting with company executives. According to The Verge, Pichai sent an email to all employees last week with the plan. He said the company wanted "to give employees the ability to plan ahead… extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don't need to be in the office."

It's a more concrete plan than Google originally had, which would have reopened some offices at the start of July this year while giving workers the option to stay at home as well.

Looking to Google

Google is a little behind compared to some of its biggest rivals with such an announcement, and though it could possibly set the tone for other companies to take similar steps, it's probably not as big a factor in other businesses' decision-making.

Firms of all sizes are often concerned that productivity levels will dip if their employees stay home. In reality, remote work can be a boost for both employee and business outcomes. 

"Knowing we can work distributed definitely opens up more ways of working for us."

--Peter Willington, Auroch Digital

A recent survey by cloud communications platform Twilio found that COVID-19 is effectively the "digital accelerant of the decade," forcing companies to accelerate their digital communications strategy by an average of six years in a bid to remain viable during the pandemic. "Over the last few months, we've seen years-long digital transformation roadmaps compressed into days and weeks in order to adapt to the new normal as a result of COVID-19," said Chief Customer Officer Glenn Weinstein in the report.

Who's Already Working From Home?

It's easy to assume that only multinational companies with significant infrastructure in place are able to embrace working from home initiatives. However, there are benefits for smaller tech-based companies, who already have all the tools to facilitate home work, as well. 

UK-based games developer Auroch Digital, for example, has found keeping workers at home to be "fairly smooth sailing." The company explained in an email that it hasn't "seen a dip in the quality of development" and has continued to sign deals with publishers. 

"[Our] Production process hasn't changed all that much from going into lockdown—we've had pretty good tools and processes for a while now, and being forced to work like this has made us consider how we might adapt working in the future. We're planning on returning to the studio in-person at some point when it's safe to do so, of course, but knowing we can work distributed definitely opens up more ways of working for us," said Peter Willington, creative producer at the firm. 

That seems to be a growing trend at many other companies around the world, both big and small. While the headlines are full of the household names we all know and use regularly, numerous other small businesses have come forward to state they're also following similar initiatives. It's not just because of the safety aspect, either, with some companies appreciating that it's simply more convenient for many workers and potentially cheaper to work remotely than to worry about office space. 

Note that this has nothing to do with Google, but everything to do with normal business thinking during a pandemic.

Attitudes Are Changing 

For years, the dream of remote work has often been promoted every time relevant tech advances, but it’s only recently that its come to such a mass acceptance. It’s our new enforced safety measures that show how working from home can be as productive (or more) than ever.

Is remote work a temporary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic or will it lead to permanently changed attitudes? Right now, amongst such a fast-changing situation, it’s hard to say for certain, but it’s clear that remote work offers numerous benefits and it’s refreshing to see major companies like Google take advantage of it. 

Google isn't the first company, to be sure, to commit to working from home for the long term. In fact, its move to keep workers home may not even be something smaller firms are paying attention to. Still, if your own employer is balking at letting you stay at home, you can always say, “Well, Google did it!"