'I expect us to need physical spaces to get people together'

  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company doesn't plan to move its workforce entirely remote, but is thinking about how it will adapt to a post-pandemic world.
  • "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," Pichai told Wired regarding the company's current remote setup.
  • Pichai also said that Google is still hiring, but less aggressively in certain areas.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

This week, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg announced that half of the company's employees could be working remotely by the end of the decade, while Twitter has said its workforce can work from home permanently.

But Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai isn't willing to make the same commitment — at least not yet.

In an interview with Wired, Pichai suggested Google is still working out what its remote work policies may look like once the pandemic is over, but that he believes there to still be good reason to get people together in the same space.

"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," he said when asked if Google might follow Facebook's lead.

"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," Pichai said. "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."

Google recently told employees that most should expect to work from home for the rest of the year, with a select few returning possibly as soon as June.

Over at Facebook, Zuckerberg said the company would ramp up its remote-hiring and allow a large number of its employees work permanently at home. If other companies such as Google follow its lead and move to a more remote-heavy workforce, there could be significant ramifications for the San Francisco Bay Area.

Pichai was also asked if the pandemic and changing thoughts around remote work would impact its plans for major office developments in both the Bay Area and New York.

"In all scenarios I expect us to need physical spaces to get people together, absolutely," he said. "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."

However, these expansions could be slowed by the pandemic. During Google's latest earnings call, CFO Ruth Porat said the company's capital expenditures for 2020 would see "a modest decrease" as the company paused or slowed various expansion projects.

Hiring is another area that Google is pulling back on right now. In the Wired interview, Pichai reiterated that the company is still hiring, but less aggressively in certain areas.

"We are moderating our hiring plans but we are still bringing in people," he said. "That doesn't mean we aren't looking for efficiencies. We are looking at areas where we can course correct, where we can be more efficient, where we can streamline."

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