- Google delayed its office return in the US, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa beyond January 10.
- The move comes in light of the new Omicron coronavirus variant and travel restrictions.
- The new variant and new restrictions “have triggered global uncertainty,” a Google executive said.
Google says it’s postponing its return-to-office plan for locations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa as the new coronavirus variant and travel restrictions create uncertainty. CNBC reported that the company delayed a return to US offices, too.
Google previously told employees they would be expected in offices January 10 in a new hybrid work format but said it would allow countries and locations to determine their timelines beyond that date depending on local conditions.
In a memo obtained by Insider, Google’s president for the EMEA region, Matt Brittin, told employees on Thursday that the company would postpone that deadline beyond January 10.
“The headline is that given the uncertainty around COVID-19 and the new travel restrictions, local leads everywhere have decided to continue the voluntary work-from-home period and reassess things in the New Year,” he wrote.
“No countries in EMEA will transition to the hybrid work week on January 10th.”
A company representative pointed Insider to the earlier company announcement setting January 10 as the earliest return-to-office date but declined to provide further on-the-record comment.
An average of 5,000 Google employees have been going into offices in the EMEA region each day, Brittin said. The company has more than 150,000 full-time employees globally, according to the company’s most recent earnings report, and roughly the same number of temporary and contract workers.
A recently discovered variant of the coronavirus, called Omicron, has been found in more than 20 countries, including the US, since it was first detected in Botswana roughly three weeks ago. The variant contains more mutations than previous ones and has been labeled a variant of concern by the World Health Organization.
“The emergence of the new variant and new travel restrictions have triggered global uncertainty,” Brittin told Googlers in the email sent Thursday.
“While the full impact of the new variant is not yet understood — indeed it will likely be several weeks before the scientific community can speak with more authority — we don’t want to wait before providing you with clarity.”
Brittin said Google offices across Europe would decide when to end voluntary work-from-home based on local conditions and the “risk level” assigned to each country. Googlers will be given a 30-day period to transition to a hybrid office routine, he said.
“While we wait to learn more over the coming weeks, we ask you to re-consider any in-person gatherings and try to move to virtual meetings and events wherever possible,” he added.
Like many other companies, Google has now pushed back its office return more than once. It also announced more-flexible plans around remote work after some employees pushed back on being forced to return to offices full time. Employees will be expected to be in offices at least three days a week under the new system, though the company expects about 20% of the workforce to work from home. Google said it had approved 85% of more than 10,000 relocation requests.
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