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Sundar Pichai: Google has no plans yet to allow work-from-home permanently

After Twitter announced its permanent work-from-home policy, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company has not yet committed to making such a permanent change. Pichai told Wired, "How productive will we be when different teams who don't normally work together have to come together for brainstorming, the creative process?" "We are going to have research, surveys...learn what works," he added.

While many tech companies have been considering letting employees work from home for as long as they want or at least till the end of the year, Google CEO Sundar Pichai feels that a full-time work from home situation is not feasible for the company.

According to Pichai, Google will always need a human element and thus the company will have to figure out how to handle the current situation well.

In an interview with Wired, Pichai talked about the work from home situation extensively, mentioning that it was something Google has had to adapt to.

“Once we realized this was going to be bigger than any of us imagined, two quick thoughts: First, how do we keep our employees safe? So as early as we possibly could, we had to move the company to a distributed, global, work from home model. Second, in some ways Google and Alphabet were built for this moment. We are here to provide people information, help them in moments where they need help. So we realized it was important to step up our products and services but also the help we can give to communities and institutions,” he said.

Pichai expects Google to adapt, for sure, but for him, there is still value in traditional, face-to-face environments.

“I don’t think we are going to come out of this and be back where we were before this all started. So I expect us to adapt but it’s still too early to tell how much. Early on, I’m excited that some of this is working well. But it is based on a foundation of all of us knowing each other and having the regular interactions we already had. I’m curious to see what happens as we get into that three-to-six-month window and we get into things where we are doing something for the first time. How productive will we be when different teams who don’t normally work together have to come together for brainstorming, the creative process? We are going to have research, surveys, learn from data, learn what works,” Pichai said.

Wired asked Pichai if the company was having second thoughts about the giant campus they are building in Mountain View or the building they are renovating in New York City.

“In all scenarios I expect us to need physical spaces to get people together, absolutely. We have a lot of growth planned ahead. So even if there is some course correction I don’t think our existing footprint is going to be the issue. I am positive we will put it to good use and I’m anxious to see some of those projects get done,” Pichai replied.

For context, Twitter and Square have announced that their employees can work from home permanently and Facebook has also announced that they 50% of their staff will likely be working from home full-time in the next five to ten years.

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