Google Delays Return to In-office Work Again

The emergence of the Omicron variant of COVID-19 has companies one again rethinking when to require employees to return to their offices.

One major company, Google, announced on December 2, that it will not require employees to return to offices on Jan. 10 as expected, CNBC reported, after obtaining an email sent to employees,

Google’s security VP, Chris Rackow wrote the company plans to wait until the new year to assess when U.S. offices can return safely to a “stable, long-term working environment.” None of the U.S. locations will adopt the hybrid working mandate on Jan. 10 as planned, his email said.

The new guidance comes after previous delays and as most of the company’s employees were expected to return to physical offices three days a week.

According to the cable network news report, health officials are concerned the new variant, which has some 50 mutations, could prove more transmissible than previous strains and evade vaccines’ protection to some degree.

Rackow’s email said Google will allow specific locations to decide their timelines for returning their respective local workforces to the office. Google’s “Local Incident Response Teams” will also help determine each office’s “risk level,” it said.

Rackow also said the the company still encourages employees to continue coming in “where conditions allow, to reconnect with colleagues in person and start regaining the muscle memory of being in the office more regularly.”

While Rackow’s email doesn’t mention the latest variant, Google reportedly told its employees in Europe, the Middle East and Africa that it would postpone its return-to-office plan for those locations as the new variant and travel restrictions continue to create uncertainty.

In the meantime, Bureau of Labor Statistics show workers throughout the United States do continue to return to their offices. The BLS data show the share of people who worked remotely fell to 11.6 percent last month, which is the lowest point since the start of the pandemic.