Google’s plans to return to in-person work have been impeded by outbreaks of COVID-19 in the offices.
Six months ago, Google announced that its employees would be returning to in-person work for at least part of the week. Employees were to plan on beginning in-person work by April 4.
Employees were to spend at least three days in the office and could choose where to work during the other two work days. Vaccinations were required with some exemptions, and vaccinated employees were not required to wear face masks, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Declining COVID cases and increased access to the vaccine and other treatments were driving factors in this decision. Many other companies—such as Facebook, American Express, and Wells Fargo—were also instituting similar return to work plans at the time.
Now those plans are being called into question as Google offices are plagued with COVID outbreaks.
As many as 300 employees from two locations in Los Angeles have reported falling ill. Employees say they receive regular exposure notifications.
Why it’s news
Remote versus in-person work is an ongoing debate across many industries. Many employees seem to prefer remote work, but there are still pushes from employers to return to in-person settings.
Avoiding exposure to COVID and other illnesses is one of the benefits of remote options. Google employees argued against the return plans, pointing out that the company saw many accomplishments while working remotely, including the fastest revenue growth in 15 years, CNBC reports.
Google’s offices have some of the highest outbreak numbers of any company in the LA area, according to the city’s public health dashboard. At the time of writing, the office in Venice, Calif. reported 152 cases and the Play Vista office reported 155.
The numbers do not represent current or active cases, but rather cases over the last several months, CNBC reports.
What’s not being said
Google required its workers to be vaccinated in order to return to in-person work, but it allowed exemptions in certain scenarios. Employees who are not vaccinated and do not have an exemption are not permitted to be in-person at the offices.
With all the outbreaks happening in the offices, some unvaccinated employees are questioning this restriction, pointing out that outbreaks are happening even though employees are vaccinated.
In a memo, employees are asked to be allowed to attend meetings in-person. The anonymous memo claims to be from hundreds of vaccinated and unvaccinated employees, CNBC reported.
Companies dropping their vaccine mandates is not unprecedented. Boeing, Intel, and United Airlines are a few prominent examples.