In March 2020, when the nation began working from home after the coronavirus pandemic breached U.S. shores, the shift was immediate and extreme. Speculators mused that the worldwide experiment in remote business would revolutionize the work economy. And naturally Big Tech, having already pioneered the digital frontier, seemed poised to lead the charge.
For a while, it did: In May 2020, Silicon Valley mammoths Facebook, Twitter, and Square all said their employees could opt to work from home indefinitely should they wish. Google initially fronted one of the longest timetables for a return to the office. But now a year into the global pandemic, it appears to be pulling back the horses on remote work.
The search engine giant said Wednesday it will speed up office reopening plans in April for those who volunteer before the September 1 deadline, according to a memo cited by CNBC. The company, which made headlines last year for eyeing a “hybrid” workweek schedule, also reportedly said that after September 1, employees who want to work remotely more than 14 days per year must formally apply for it—requesting up to 12 months in “the most exceptional circumstances.” (We reached out to Google for comment on the memo.)
Meanwhile, Amazon, another Big Tech behemoth, said Tuesday its post-pandemic goal will be “an office-centric culture as our baseline,” and it will start bringing back corporate employees in June. It expects most domestic workers to be back in the building by early fall.
The news is hardly shocking when considering the fact that both Amazon and Google have been gobbling up real estate over the past year. Seattle-based Amazon signed a lease for a multi-million-square-foot tower in Bellevue, Washington, last August, and in February unveiled the grand rendering for its futuristic, helix-shaped second headquarters, which is set to rise in Arlington, Virginia, by 2025. In March, Google revealed it would be investing $7 billion in office space and data centers across the country this year, including $1 billion in its home state of California.
However, another tech titan, IBM, is taking a different tack. The company’s CEO told Bloomberg this week that 80% of employees will likely stay in hybrid roles, with the majority spending about three days per week in the office post-pandemic.