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Google 'extends home working and plans flexible work week'

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·Finance and policy reporter
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Google's offices in Germany. Photo: Alexander Pohl/Sipa USA
Google's offices in Germany. Photo: Alexander Pohl/Sipa USA

Google staff will work from home until September next year and only have to return to the office part-time in future, according to a report.

An email to staff at parent company Alphabet (GOOGL), seen by the New York Times, reportedly confirmed another delay to their office return as the coronavirus pandemic rages on. Staff were previously due to return in January and then July.

Sundar Pichai, chief executive of Alphabet, is also said to have set out plans to pilot a longer-term “flexible workweek.”

This would see staff expected only to spend at least three “collaboration days” in the office, with the freedom to work remotely the other days of the week.

READ MORE: Google restores ‘vast majority’ of services after outage

“We are testing a hypothesis that a flexible work model will lead to greater productivity, collaboration, and well-being,” Pichai is reported to have told staff.

“No company at our scale has ever created a fully hybrid work force model—though a few are starting to test it—so it will be interesting to try.”

The news came on the same day Google services were paralysed by an outage worldwide, leaving millions of users unable to complete everyday tasks from accessing documents to holding business meetings and school lessons. The company said the “vast majority” of users had since seen services restored.

Many other leading companies worldwide are weighing up similar questions over when staff can safely return to offices, and how far remote working should continue beyond the pandemic.

WATCH: The pros and cons of working from home

Facebook (FB) chief Mark Zuckerberg announced in May that remote working would be available permanently. He said he expected half the tech giant’s staff to be remote workers within the next five to 10 years.

Twitter also announced a similar move in May, telling staff its shift to remote working had proven they could make it work. “If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen,” it said in a public blogpost.

A survey of UK employers by the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development (CIPD) in July found around two in five employees were likely to work from home regularly after the pandemic. A more recent poll of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) found 45% reported being more productive working from home.

READ MORE: BP to sell office in rethink of working patterns

Stuart Duff, head of development at the business psychology consultancy Pearn Kandola, told Yahoo Finance UK in August the changes looked set to be one of the biggest workplace shifts in modern history.

“Productivity has, for the most part, gone untouched—even improving in some cases—and the vast majority of leaders that I’ve spoken with feel positive about the prospect of allowing some form of remote working to remain in place as lockdown begins to ease,” she said.

Some firms have already slashed office space. Such moves are likely to take a heavy toll on city and town centre shops, which are reliant on footfall returning among office-based staff nearby.

Google has been approached for comment.

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READ MORE: Nearly half of SME staff say productivity boosted by home working

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