Google HR hounds threaten 'next steps' for slackers not coming in 3 days a week

'There's just no substitute for coming together in person'

Google will police rules about hybrid work more tightly by proposing to include office time in performance reviews, with HR threatening to consider "next steps" should employees not adhere to the updated policy.

Much of the workforce were asked to come into the office three days a week from spring last year, and in a memo to the great unwashed – seen by CNBC – Google chief people officer Fiona Cicconi said: "There's just no substitute for coming together in person."

"We've heard from Googlers that those who spend at least three days a week in the office feel more connected to other Googlers, and that this effect is magnified when teammates work from the same location," the memo states.

return to office

'What's the point of me being in my office, just because they want to see me in the office?'


"Of course, not everyone believes in 'magical hallway conversations', but there's no question that working together in the same room makes a positive difference."

Google tried to bring more employees back to the office in 2021, which wasn't well received. Now it is being more forceful, as are Meta, Dell, Amazon, and many other tech companies which espouse the benefits of remote working to customers.

The plan is to track the office badge of employees – at intervals – to confirm attendance, and Cicconi said the three days a week in office baseline will be folded into performance reviews. Managers will send reminders to staff "who are consistently absent from the office."

"For those who are remote and who live near a Google office, we hope you'll consider switching to a hybrid work schedule. Our offices are where you'll be most connected to Google's community."

Google will, from time to time, review staff attendance, and should any Googler not stick to the three-day-a-week rule, after an unspecified extended period, they'll get a call from HR to outline the "next steps."

The offices for Google Cloud were described as a "ghost town" by Alphabet and Google CEO Sundar Pichai in March, which he said some employees had complained about. "It's not a nice experience."

In a statement sent to The Register, a Google spokesperson said: "Our employees have been in our hybrid work model for over a year now – spending three days a week in the office and the other two working from home. It's going well, and we want to see Googlers connecting and collaborating in-person, so we're limiting remote work to exception only."

Traveling into the office was a daily routine for many people prior the pandemic, and people working at Google were offered numerous perks including free gym passes, free meals, snacks, and stress-busting massages. In a new cost-conscious culture, Google is now paring back some of the freebies it dished out.

In April, staff were asked to put PC refreshes on hold, and it was looking for other ways to cut costs. "We set a high bar for industry-leading perks, benefits and office amenities, and we will continue that into the future," said CFO Ruth Porat at the time. "However, some programs need to evolve for how Google works today."

Some 12,000 employees are being made redundant, Google confirmed in January, and the business expects to incur $500 million in costs in 2023 related to "exiting leases to align our office space with out adjusted headcount," said Porat.

As outlined by the San Francisco Chronicle last week, Google is downsizing office space in the Bay Area by 1.4 million square feet. In the US, Google Cloud asked staff to share desks, given that fewer people are coming into the office full-time.

As for the policy, requests to stay at home to work are now deemed exceptions. That doesn't count for this week, though. The wildfires in Canada and the subsequent bad air policy on the East Coast of the US mean that Googlers are advised to stay at home.

Microsoft is also in post-pandemic cost-cutting mode, laying off staff and freezing wages. The business reportedly wants to sublease 42,000 square feet on New York City's Times Square. ®

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