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Internet Giants to Staff: Plan to Work From Home for 2020 (1)

May 8, 2020, 10:33 PM

Elon Musk wants people to return to work. Google and Facebook Inc. have another message for their staff: get ready to stay home for all of 2020.

Sundar Pichai, chief executive officer of Google and its parent, Alphabet Inc., told employees on Thursday to prepare to work remotely through October and possibly to the end of the year, according to people familiar with the decision. A spokeswoman confirmed that the majority of staff is expected to work from home until 2021.

Two weeks ago, Pichai wrote an email to his workforce that said some offices would open as soon as June. On Friday, Pichai told employees only about 10% to 15% of the workers would be on-site in June, with more returns varying by division and location, according to an internal memo. About 5% of employees now are working in Google offices, Pichai said. CNBC reported earlier on the memo. Most of the workforce won’t return until at least the end of October, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

On Thursday, Facebook told employees that they can work remotely through 2020 if they like. The social media company doesn’t expect to open most offices until July 6 at the earliest.

The edicts from the internet giants come as states and corporations grapple with ways to reopen while the virus pandemic rages on. California, Google’s home state, is letting some businesses open in limited ways, including some manufacturing. Select executives, namely Tesla Inc.’s Musk, are outspoken advocates for opening up the economy, although most technology leaders are being more cautious.

“If we can work remotely, if we can work from home, and help take some of the pressure off and flatten the curve, we will do that,” Jacquelline Fuller, head of Google.org, the company’s philanthropic arm, said Friday in an interview on Bloomberg TV. “We will be using science to guide us in our decision making.”

Google was one of the first Silicon Valley companies to shut its offices in early March. In his April email, Pichai said any return would be “staggered” and “incremental.” The company employs more than 100,000 people and has tens of thousands of contract workers.

In March, Google said it would cover pay and sick leave for contract staff impacted by office closures, such as cafeteria workers, and planned to evaluate the decision “over the coming months.” A spokesperson didn’t comment on that policy.

(Updates with comments from Google CEO in the third paragraph.)

--With assistance from Emily Chang.

To contact the reporters on this story:
Mark Bergen in San Francisco at mbergen10@bloomberg.net;
Gerrit De Vynck in New York at gdevynck@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story:
Alistair Barr at abarr18@bloomberg.net

Andrew Pollack, Anne VanderMey

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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