• Google Letting Staff Work From Home

    Google Letting Staff Work From Home Until Summer 2021 May Spark Retail Fallout

    Silicon Valley Search Engine Provider Extends Policy as Pandemic Wears On

    Google is extending its work-from-home policy for many employees until at least June 2021. (iStock)
    Google is extending its work-from-home policy for many employees until at least June 2021. (iStock)

    Google, a major San Francisco Bay Area technology company, is extending its work-from-home policy for more than 200,000 employees globally in a move that could delay a recovery for restaurants and retailers relying on nearby office workers for business.

    The Mountain View, California-based search engine provider said it told the employees Monday they can work remotely until at least June 2021 as the result of a recent increase in coronavirus cases across the United States.

    Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote in a memo that the decision adds another six months to a policy that was originally set to bring office workers back by the end of this year: “To give employees the ability to plan ahead, we are extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don’t need to be in the office,” Pichai wrote in the memo, which was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

    As the largest occupant of real estate in the Bay Area, according to CoStar data, Google's decision to let staff work from home will keep one of Silicon Valley's largest workforces out of the office. Jesse Gundersheim, CoStar's director of market analytics in the San Francisco Bay Area, said the company occupies at least 25 million square feet of office, flex and industrial space combined throughout the region. 

    While Google's geographical footprint is predominantly concentrated in the Bay Area, the company leases or owns offices in major cities around the world, including New York; Los Angeles; Seattle; Portland, Oregon; and Atlanta. Earlier this year, the company had planned to invest more than $10 billion in new offices and data centers across the country, a figure that has since dropped dramatically because of its response to the pandemic.

    Google's decision earlier this year to keep employees home came before other tech companies decided to follow suit. Businesses implementing remote-work policies that have left offices and nearby restaurants, shops and other businesses drained of typical foot traffic include social media website provider Facebook, business software maker Salesforce, software producer Microsoft, online retailer Amazon, workplace communications company Slack Technologies and iPhone seller Apple.

    Leslie Silverglide, the founder and CEO of San Francisco salad chain MIXT, said the absence of a daily workforce population has forced her to keep all her downtown locations closed since the city issued its stay-at-home order in mid-March.

    "It's a ghost town," she said of San Francisco's financial district, where MIXT leases space in seven locations in addition to three elsewhere in the city. "We're trying to figure out what companies are coming back when, but our reopening will depend on when they do."

    At least one portion of the tech office population may never return. San Francisco-based Twitter and Square, both run by CEO Jack Dorsey, adopted permanent work-from-home allowances back in May.

    Other real estate expansions that may have brought in some additional Google office employees to the region have also been put on hold.

    In another potential hit to the Bay Area's previously vibrant real estate market, Google said earlier this year that it would pause future expansions and hiring after reporting significant drops in its core advertising business. The company pumped the brakes on buying a sprawling, 10-building Mountain View portfolio and postponed talks to lease 1.5 million square feet of space at Pier 70, developer Brookfield's $3.5 billion waterfront redevelopment in San Francisco.