Technology

Google warns pandemic may hinder its capability to ‘keep company tradition’ in 2021

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Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai gestures during a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, on January 22, 2020.

(Photo by Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP) (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

As Google prepares to return workers to offices in 2021, it is warning it may take a productivity and financial hit in the process, according to the company’s annual 10-K report.

The company, known for its competitive, perks-fueled culture, employs 135,301 full-time workers and an equally large contingent workforce through third-party contracting firms.

“As we prepare to return our workforce in more locations back to the office in 2021, we may experience increased costs as we prepare our facilities for a safe return to work environment and experiment with hybrid work models, in addition to potential effects on our ability to compete effectively and maintain our corporate culture,” the company states.

Google, which first ordered employees to work from home in March 2020, has been working on “hybrid” work models that include rearranging offices and figuring out more long-term remote work options, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said in September. In December, CNBC reported that Pichai sent an email to employees extending their work-from-home period to September 1, 2021 but it was contingent on employees working from physical offices at least three days a week and living within commuting distance from assigned offices. That was stricter than the remote work options offered by companies like Twitter and Facebook.  

Government lockdowns could also “significantly impact” the ability of employees and vendors to work productively, the company added in the filing. “Governmental restrictions have been globally inconsistent and it remains unclear when a return to worksite locations or travel will be permitted or what restrictions will be in place in those environments.”

The company listed other potential adverse impacts from “prolonged” remote working during the pandemic, including declines in advertising revenue, hardware demand, and sales leads as well as challenges in supporting its services and preventing problematic content from appearing on its platforms.

Watch Now: Google extends remote work through Sept. 1, 2021

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Katherine Clark