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Google staff asked to share desk space in latest cost purge

From free massage therapy and on-site gyms to alternating desk days with fellow Googlers

Google Cloud employees stateside are being asked to share a desk with a colleague in the latest cost curb as real estate is rationalized in line with efforts outlined by management, and mass redundancies is realized.

According to a memo dispatched this week, colleagues in Kirkland, Washington; New York City; San Francisco, Seattle; and Sunnyvale California were told about the change.

“Most Googlers will now have to share a desk with one other Googler,” said the memo, seen by CNBC. Staff will not be expected to sit at the same desk on the same day, Google added. “Through the matching process, they will agree on a basic desk setup and establish norms with the desk partner and team to ensure a positive experience in the new shared environment.”

The desk share plan is being referred to by management as Cloud Office Evolution, “combining the best of pre-pandemic collaboration with the flexibility” of mixed working at home and in the office.

This is all a far cry from image Google worked hard to create of a business that lavished its employees with perks including on-site massage therapy, free meals and cookery classes, on-site gyms and much, much more.

The tone changed last month when Google confirmed it was expunging circa 12,000 workers that it had hired in the early years of the pandemic and could no longer justify on the payroll, given the dramatic downturn in results.

For calendar 2022, Google parent Alphabet reported revenue of $282.8 billion, up 10 percent and markedly slower than the double digit growth posted in prior years. Net income plunged to $59.9 billion from $76 billion.

In an earnings call, CFO Ruth Porat confirmed the organization expects to incur roughly $500 million in costs connected to “exiting leases to align our office space with our adjusted global headcount outlook. This will be reflected in corporate costs. We continue to optimize our real estate footprint.”

Turnover generated by Google Cloud remains some distance behind Microsoft and AWS globally, although it is way ahead of the fourth largest public cloud provider. In Q4, Google Cloud’s revenue went up to $7.3 billion from $5.54 billion.

In a statement, Google told The Register: “Since returning to the office, we’ve run pilots and conducted surveys with Cloud employees to explore different hybrid work models and help shape the best experience.

“Our data show Cloud Googlers value guaranteed in-person collaboration when they are in the office, as well as the option to work from home a few days each week. With this feedback, we’ve developed our new rotational model, combining the best of pre-pandemic collaboration with the flexibility and focus we’ve all come to appreciate from remote work, while also allowing us to use our spaces more efficiently.”

When we asked Google if the model would be coming to the rest of its locations, it told us it would be limited to the five locations in the US. ®

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