Technical companies are cautiously returning people while employees hesitate

Atsuko Balingit with technology startup Fast is working in the office at his desk on March 24, 2021 in San Francisco, California.

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Starting Monday, Google returns most employees to designated physical offices three days a week. The company has said since the beginning of the pandemic that it eventually wants people back.

Many workers do not understand why, and expressed their concern at a recent comprehensive meeting.

“Google made record profits through the pandemic,” said CEO Sundar Pichai, reading a question asked by staff and voted for by many others in Google’s internal council called Dory. “Why doesn’t an RTO policy work out of the office if you want to or if it makes sense?”

Many employers stick to balancing Google, especially as rising gas prices make long trips and traffic jams even more unattractive than two years ago. In particular, technology companies have succeeded during the pandemic, thanks in part to a wide range of cloud-based collaboration tools. Employees are accustomed to flexibility and family time.

Companies are now facing a test to see how employees will react if some additional work situations become mandatory and the job market continues to strengthen. Megan Slabinski of consulting and recruitment firm Robert Half said two-thirds of employers say they want to bring workers back “almost full-time,” and half of employees say they would look for a new job if needed.

“This is an exciting level of gap between employers and workers,” said Slabinski, who oversees the Northwest Pacific, Colorado, Utah and Northern California as Robert Half County President.

I’m going back

Some companies have changed their policies several times before returning to the office.

In June, Amazon abandoned its original return plan, telling corporate workers it would allow them to return to the office three days a week instead of full-time. The company said it is “learning and evolving as we go.” In October, Amazon said the decision would be left to individual teams.

Microsoft and Google have added a 30-day “transition” period to make it easier for employees to return to the new schedule.

Last spring, when Google first tried to bring employees back to the office before Covid-19 cases increased again, the company said employees could apply for telecommuting for up to 12 months, but would only get permission in “the most exceptional circumstances.” ». They can also be called to the designated office at any time.

Since then, management has eased its tone. Google says it has approved 85% of requests for relocation or permanent remote work.

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“You are adults and we trust you that you are doing what is right for you, your families and your life, while respecting the new base,” Prabhakar Raghavan, who oversees search, advertising and trade. “We don’t expect 100% loyalty to the 3-2 hybrid 24×7 work week.”

At the comprehensive meeting, Pichai said that “there is a real desire of people to communicate and cooperate, so we are trying to balance it all,” – said CNBC. “We will continue to look into all of this closely,” he said.

One of the reasons for the partial return, Pichai said, is for people to get to know their colleagues.

“Over the last two years, we’ve hired so many people who just don’t understand how the company works,” he said.

Even Twitter, which announced in 2020 that employees can work remotely “forever,” told employees last month that “distributed work will be much, much harder”. CEO Parag Agraval, who replaced Jack Dorsey late last year, said he hoped to see people in the office because personal work “brings this culture to life in such a powerful way”.

Wait and see

Slabinski said some companies expect their counterparts to do so before making any serious decisions. Amazon, for example, has not announced a new return date.

“I think there’s an element that someone has to go first to demand people back,” Slabinski said. “Amazon retreated when they began to see depletion, and now Google is demanding that people return to the site, and it’s like hoping the rest of the industry joins it, and that won’t be a reason to resign.”

Another problem for employers is the synchronization of schedules. Apple has appointed Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays as weekdays. Other technology companies have kept their plans vague.

Colin Yasukochi, executive director of real estate firm CBRE, said he expects the San Francisco commercial real estate market to become more competitive in the second and third quarters when demand is better felt.

“They all act cautiously because they don’t really want to lose key employees,” Yasukoti said, adding that some people end up not seeing the point of coming in when they feel the office is empty.

“There’s nothing worse than, ‘Oh, I’ve made every effort to come in today and put on real pants, and I’m the only one,'” Yasukoti said. He said his CBRE office in San Francisco is being filled from 20% to 30% “good afternoon”.

“Throwing the dice”

Employee retention and satisfaction are more important than ever in the technology sector as a record number of people in the US are laid off and looking for new opportunities. Forcing people to go to work is an additional risk.

“They’re throwing dice, and it’s a gamble that I’m not sure I’d like to do in this environment,” Slabinski said.

Smaller companies may have an advantage in talent, she added.

“They could really differentiate their capabilities where they may not be able to compete for competition, but they could offer flexibility and trust,” Slabinski said.

Google is back to one of its best tricks: benefits.

Before the company announced a new return date, David Radcliffe, Google’s vice president of real estate and workplace services, wrote an email to Bay Area employees announcing that the campus has amenities such as fitness centers, free meals, and rooms. relaxation, games rooms and massage. back open.

There are some signs that other things are coming back. Brandy Suzewitz, founder and CEO of corporate furniture retailer Reseat, said her business has more than doubled since December. Most of his clients are “cautiously optimistic” planning the office. Reseat works with companies such as Yelp, Uber and Oracle.

Suzewitz said she gets quite interesting requests for furniture. One thing people want is single phone booths.

“Instead of allocating a seat, they are doing renovations to make them open seats, a hotel environment,” she said. They “design spaces to make them more like living rooms”.

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