Google’s Sundar Pichai says CEOs ‘need to embrace’ that employees want a say in whether they work remotely, in-person, or a mix of both

Sundar Pichai
Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google. Denis Balibouse/Reuters
  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai talked with The Wall Street Journal about his company’s hybrid work policy.
  • He said CEOs must embrace the fact that “employees want to have a say in where they work.”
  • He added that roughly 20% to 30% of Google’s staff have voluntarily gone back to the office already.

Business leaders should welcome employees’ opinions on whether to have a remote, in-person, or hybrid work model, according to Sundar Pichai.

The Google CEO spoke with The Wall Street Journal on Monday about his company’s hybrid work plans. He also discussed the future of work more broadly.

“There has to be a dialogue of respect on both sides, I think, but I think CEOs need to embrace the fact that in the modern workplace, employees want to have a say in where they work,” he said, according to a transcript of the conversation, which was recorded for a podcast. “And I think there is strength in that too. So I think that’s the way I’ve looked at it.”

Pichai also said that having employees work three days a week in the office and two days a week at home strikes a nice “balance.”

He added that between 20% and 30% of Google’s employees have voluntarily returned to the office already. In New York, roughly half of the company’s staff are back to working in person.

Employees will need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 before they can return to Google’s offices, the company announced in July. Google said in August that it had approved 85% of the roughly 10,000 requests it had received in an initial round of employees’ remote work and relocation requests.

Last month, the tech giant announced it was buying an office building in New York City for $US2.1 ($AU3) billion, showing in-person work will still be a fixture in its future plans.

Throughout the pandemic, Google has encountered pushback from employees for its initial reluctance to build flexible remote work policies into its future plans. Last September, an internal survey found that only 8% of Google employees reported wanting to return to the office five days a week post-pandemic. A month later, Pichai said the company would expand its number of “hubs” to give staff more flexibility but that “the majority of Googlers’ roles will continue to be tied to a particular office,” as Insider’s Hugh Langley reported.

That December, Google said that, once employees returned to the office, it would experiment with a “flexible work week” that includes three days of in-person work and two days of remote work. The company changed its tune once again in May to announce plans to allow 60% of employees to go to the office a few days each week, 20% to relocate and work from new offices, and 20% to work remotely.

In August, Reuters reported based on a leaked salary calculator that Google staffers choosing to work from home indefinitely could face pay cuts of up to 25%.