Alphabet CEO Pichai lays out coronavirus return to work plans

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai gestures during a session at the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, January 22, 2020.

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai said the company plans to bring most of its employees to work by the end of the year on a rotating schedule to preserve social distancing. But the majority of people will still work remotely.

“I expect by the end of the year we will be at 20% to 30% capacity. Which may still mean that we can get 60% of our employees in one go per week, or something like that “said Pichai Podcast “Le Vergecast”.

The company will begin by bringing in 10% to 15% of the office workers at any time, said Pichai. Alphabet, which is the parent company of Google, will give priority to employees who must be in offices, such as those who need to access certain equipment or products. As he ramps up operations, Pichai said he believes the company will limit office traffic to 20% to 30% of office workers at any time.

“That’s what we mean, where a large majority of the employees we think will likely work from home until the end of the year,” said Pichai. Google currently has less than 5% of the world’s employees working in offices.

Pichai had presented Google’s reopening strategy in a memo obtained by CNBC in early May.

Tech companies were one of the first groups to adapt to remote working when the Covid-19 pandemic began to spread to the United States in March.

Twitter and Square, both chaired by CEO Jack Dorsey, said last week that they would allow employees to work from home permanently, taking a more liberal approach. The majority of Facebook employees will be allowed to work remotely until the end of 2020, the company announced in early May.

Pichai has warned that productivity is declining in some parts of the business, and he doesn’t know how remote working will work as employees start thinking about next year’s products. So he’s going to be more conservative in keeping people out of the office, but study what works well and what doesn’t.

“But coming out of it all, are we all learning and have more flexibility in how we think about it? I think so, that’s how I would bet,” said Pichai.

Listen to the full episode of The Vergecast here.

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