In latest news, Google's CEO Sundar Pichai sent an email to employees delaying the return to offices till September 2021. However, the more interesting part is the section on 'Flexible work week' with a link to a detailed FAQ on what return to office would mean and how work from home with Google would be for the employees.
From 9-5 to 3-2-2
The memo said that Google will be piloting a flexible work week where employees work at least 3 days in office, 2 days from home or anywhere else and of course 2 weekend days are off.
There's a 2-fold raitionale behind this hybrid approach:
1) Most Google employees loved the remote working experience but also want to return to office in some form
2) Sundar Pichai believes a hybrid model or particularly infusing remote work will improve productivity, collaboration & overall well-being
Flexible office design & improved collaboration tools to be a part of work from home with Google
The flexible work week approach will also be coupled with a redesign of Google's offices.
Major changes would be:
1) Large bookable collaboration spaces & outdoor spaces for team gatherings
2) Reservable desks for employees who need quiet space to work outside of home
Apart from this, the memo also spoke about improvement in Google's existing collaboration tools like Meet & Workspace on top of improving infrastructure like in-office presentation booths to send professional-quality broadcasts to large, distributed audiences.
Hybrid looks like a safe compromise but it can bring the worst of both worlds for Google
Google's determination to adopt remote working is commendable but these are only half-measures. Here's the big catch from the memo - Every employee has to live within a commuting distance of their allotted office.
This practically negates the 'work from anywhere' advantage entirely. Plus it's huge hassle for me as a remote worker to manage a home office while also working out of a company office most days a week. I would rather prefer working all days from the office.
Individual productivity can take a serious hit if you ask people to keep switching between their home office & your company office. More than that, if employees do get the choice to WFH 2 days/week or not and as I suspect if many don't take that choice, it will only create a divide between employees, teams, departments.
In conclusion, if the flexible work week model is just a 'pilot' or 'trial' towards a better version of hybrid or going fully-remote, then it may not be a huge problem. However, serious problems will show up if Google plans to do this permanently. Either ways, it will be another interesting large-scale experiment to witness as Google implements hybrid for most of its 130,000 employees.