Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 August 2020

Google delays reopening of US offices as Covid-19 infections spike

The company said that offices will remain closed at least until September 7

Google and Temasek Holdings are in negotiations to join a funding round of between $500 million and $1 billion for Indonesian e-commerce giant Tokopedia. AFP
Google and Temasek Holdings are in negotiations to join a funding round of between $500 million and $1 billion for Indonesian e-commerce giant Tokopedia. AFP

Google is postponing the reopening of its US offices by nearly two months due to a recent surge in the number of coronavirus cases.

All of the company’s US offices will remain closed at least until September 7, according to a memo that the Alphabet-owned firm sent to its employees on Tuesday. In May, the company’s chief executive, Sundar Pichai, said Google will reopen most of its global offices on July 6 for employees who are keen to return to the workplace.

“As the recent resurgence of cases demonstrates, Covid-19 is still very much alive in our communities,” Chris Rackow, Google’s vice president of global security, said in the memo.

“While conditions do vary from state to state, we need to see that the US outlook as a whole is stable before we move forward.”

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, a leading member of President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force, warned Congress on Tuesday that new coronavirus cases could more than double to 100,000 per day if authorities and the public fail to take steps to suppress the pandemic.

He said the US, the world's hardest-hit nation with more than 2.6 million infections, was headed in the "wrong direction" and cautioned Americans to wear masks and avoid crowds.

Google shut its offices in the first week of March to stem the spread of coronavirus.

“For all of you that are working from home, please continue to do so unless you are told otherwise by your manager,” Mr Rackow said.

More than 30 million jobs have been affected, at least temporarily, in the US due to the coronavirus pandemic. US Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell has warned that a full economic recovery in the country may take until the end of 2021 and could require the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

In May, Google said that depending on the “external conditions”, it is aiming for a gradual return of employees – starting with about 10 per cent office capacity before ramping it up to 30 per cent by September.

Mr Pichai said there are a limited number of employees who are needed back in offices this calendar year.

“If this applies to you, your manager will let you know … for everyone else, returning to the office will be voluntary through the end of the year, and we encourage you to continue to work from home if you can.”

Google is currently investing heavily in expansions of various sites including San Jose, New York and at the company’s sprawling headquarters in Mountain View.

Mr Pichai said the new emphasis on remote working will not affect those ongoing projects.

Workers wear hazmat suits during construction of a building at the Google campus in Mountain View. Bloomberg
Workers wear hazmat suits during construction of a building at the Google campus in Mountain View. Bloomberg

Global tech companies are considering a staggered return to work in an effort to resume office operations safely in the absence of a vaccine.

Facebook and Twitter have already given their employees an option to work from home permanently. Apple, however, is bringing staff back to its stores in different phases after it shut down its retail operations amid the outbreak.

Updated: July 1, 2020 05:56 PM

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