Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, tech companies have been forced to make rapid decisions about how (and where) their workforces operate. Google is no different—and with infection rates dipping, the search-engine giant has decided to drop its vaccine mandates.
A Google spokesperson confirmed to CNBC that the company would no longer require vaccinations as a condition of employment. Google is also unlocking its prized in-office amenities that had been shut down during the pandemic to limit close contact.
“We’re at the beginning of a journey, so the office experience will feel pretty similar to what it was like pre-Covid,” Google Real Estate and Workplace Services VP David Radcliffe told the network. “We’re designing and piloting options to support new ways of working together and we’ll gather insights, data and feedback to help us learn as we go.”
Over the past two years, Google undertook a handful of key steps to keep its remote workforce happy, including bonus payouts of $1,600. With offices reopening, Google decided to embrace a hybrid workweek model that will bring employees to the office three days per week (presumably with some exceptions for those jobs that require employees to be onsite full-time, such as hardware development). Easing vaccine and mask mandates may accelerate the return to perceived normalcy—although Googlers’ comfort with those measures may vary on an individual basis.
“Taken together these changes will result in a workforce where around 60 percent of Googlers are coming together in the office a few days a week, another 20 percent are working in new office locations, and 20 percent are working from home,” Google/Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in an email posted to Google’s corporate blog in mid-2021, when the hybrid policies were first announced. The company is also implementing “work-from-anywhere weeks,” where employees will be able to “work from a location other than their main office for up to 4 weeks per year (with manager approval).”
Whenever Google implements a new policy, other tech companies generally follow. Over the coming weeks and months, it will be interesting to see how the tech industry as a whole handles the thorny issues related to vaccine mandates, hybrid work, and pandemic-related policy shifts.