July 9, 2021
Google has been accused of hypocrisy and favoritism regarding its remote work policy, CNET reports. After expressing his reluctance to allow employees to continue working remotely in post-pandemic times, Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president for technical infrastructure, announced his relocation to New Zealand for a year of remote work via e-mail on June 29.
His decision to move sparked outrage among Google employees as Hölzle had been a loud opponent of remote work, at least when it came to lower-level employees.
“This feeling that I can’t realistically leave the Bay Area and work for Google is enough for me to have decided to leave,” said Laura de Vesine, who is resigning from Google. Another outraged employee who wanted to move to be with their partner added, “I will not choose Google over my partner.”
Google’s response to the outrage is that Hölzle had asked for approval for the move last year before any plans for getting back to the office were announced. However, the pandemic postponed his relocation, and he’s able to do it now as restrictions are easing. When asked by Insider about Hölzle’s opposition to remote work for other employees, a Google spokesperson said, “All employees are eligible to apply for either remote status or to work in another city.”
Google Doesn’t Follow Suit
Discussions on remote vs office work have been going on for a few months now. 88% of the organizations demanded or encouraged remote work during the pandemic, but things are starting to go back to normal, including the way we work.
There’s no denying that the pandemic has fundamentally changed working practices and caused many to realize the benefits of remote work. This is why companies such as Reddit and Twitter have said that they will let their employees keep working remotely if they choose to do so. Facebook has also extended the option for remote work.
Google announced its plans to make the return to the office more flexible. But although it planned to allow 20% of its employees to permanently keep working from home using a hybrid work model, the company seems to be struggling with implementing this.
Moreover, the case with Urs Hölzle is just a fragment of the issues causing outrage among Google employees. With Google emphasizing a back-to-office policy starting September, many employees who have moved during the pandemic will be forced to get back to the Bay Area.
Google is also making moves to discourage its employees from moving. Unlike Reddit, which has promised each employee San Francisco or New York City salaries regardless of their location, Google is basing salaries on their employees’ location, prompting a possible pay cut if they choose to relocate.
With hundreds of thousands of employees, Google has a major responsibility for taking care of their needs and fostering a positive and productive work environment. De Vesine conveys the growing sentiments of many Google employees by saying that the core issue is “the unwillingness of Google leadership to commit to a policy and to commit to a policy that seems realistic.”