Tech giants struggle with back to work timing as Delta variant spreads

Covid-19 alert
Image: Martin Sanchez/ IDG

Office returns will vary according to local conditions



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30 July 2021 | 0

Big Tech firms like Google and Facebook are putting into place policies requiring its US workers to return to the office with a vaccine certificate, however when this measure will roll out to other countries is unclear. Social media stalwarts Twitter and LinkedIn are also struggling to keep up with new recommentations from the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) advising the wearing of masks indoors leading to the closure of offices and shelving of remote working plans.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said in an e-mail to employees on Wednesday that the implementation of the policy “will vary according to local conditions and regulations” and will not apply until vaccines are widely available in an employee’s region.

“We’re rolling this policy out in the US in the coming weeks and will expand to other regions in the coming months,” he said.




A spokesperson for Google told IT Pro that there’s no specific information for when this policy will apply to EMEA employees.

Similarly, Facebook has announced that anyone coming to work at its US campuses must also be fully vaccinated.

“How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations,” said Lori Goler, Facebook’s vice president of People. “We will have a process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons and will be evaluating our approach in other regions as the situation evolves.”

Twitter, which opened its offices in New York and San Francisco two weeks ago, has decided to close them again following a recent update from the CDC.

“After careful consideration of the CDC’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions, Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately,” a spokesperson told IT Pro. “We’re continuing to closely monitor local conditions and make necessary changes that prioritize the health and safety of our Tweeps.”

Furthermore, Google announced that it would extend its global voluntary work-from-home policy to 18 October, as employees were originally scheduled to return on 1 September. Google has also said it would let employees know at least 30 days in advance before transitioning into its full return to office plans.

Last year, Google said that employees could work from home until January 2021, before pushing it to July 2021, which then changed to September 2021 as it delayed the return to the office again. When employees return, they will have a “flexible workweek” which involves coming into the office three days a week under a pilot plan.

Facebook also previously stated that employees they could work from home until July 2021 and it would give staff $1,000 towards any home office equipment they needed. However, more recently, the company said that it will let employees who can work away from the office do so after the pandemic is over, as reported by the BBC.

Restrictions on restrictions

In contrast Twitter and LinkedIn to reverse course on previous decisions they’d made.

In the case of Twitter, the company is closing its San Francisco and New York offices, which it had reopened just two weeks ago. It’s also pumping the brakes on plans to reopen its other offices.

“After careful consideration of the CDC’s updated guidelines, and in light of current conditions, Twitter has made the decision to close our opened offices in New York and San Francisco as well as pause future office reopenings, effective immediately,” a spokesperson told ITPro.

In a major shift Tuesday, the CDC recommended that vaccinated Americans resume wearing masks in indoor public spaces if they live in high-transmission communities or have vulnerable household members.

As for LinkedIn, the company is doing an about face and will allow most of its 16,000 employees to work remotely, according to Reuters. They’ll have the flexibility to work remotely full-time or work at an office part-time.

With this new policy, LinkedIn is backing off its plans to have employees work from the office 50% of the time when Covid-19 pandemic restrictions are lifted.

“We anticipate that we’ll definitely see more remote employees than what we saw prior to the pandemic,” LinkedIn’s chief people officer Teuila Hanson told Reuters. Hanson adding that some jobs would require in-office work.

But LinkedIn’s openness to remote work contrasts other tech giants’ hard-line stances on returning to the office. Apple announced it would require most employees to work from the office three days per week, while Google expects 60% of its global workforce to return to the office at least part-time.

Apple has reportedly pushed back its return to the office by at least a month due to the spike in coronavirus variants. The deadline is reportedly now set for October at the earliest. Furthermore, Apple is reportedly going to give its employees at least a month’s warning before ordering them to return to the office.

© Dennis Publishing

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