The move illustrates how corporate America is writing its own guidebook for managing the social, economic and public health byproducts of the pandemic — from enforcing face mask mandates to retaining employees to mitigating the safety risks for consumers and staff. But each decision contingent on the nation’s return to normalcy, or what passes for it now, is tentative.
Chief executive Sundar Pichai announced the new timetable in a companywide email to “give employees the ability to plan ahead.”
Pichai made the decision last week. He was partly influenced by the differing approaches to schools reopening across the country, the Journal reported. The work-from-home option applies to 200,000 full-time and contract employees attached to the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., as well as offices in other parts of the United States, the United Kingdom and India.
Google’s move could motivate other corporations to reevaluate their timelines, especially as the numbers of confirmed novel coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise in the United States. At least 4.2 million cases and 145,000 deaths have been reported in the United States.
Business and political leaders are eagerly waiting for a vaccine to help get the economy back on track after pandemic-fueled stay-at-home orders upended business and social activity and launched the United States into a recession. Last week, 1.4 million Americans filed new jobless claims, the highest number since March. Economists and federal officials have publicly encouraged mask-wearing as states have reopened their economies in phases.
The federal government has invested billions of dollars in biotechnological and pharmaceutical companies in the race to develop a vaccine, promising fast-track approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Monday marked a milestone, with large-scale clinical trials launching to gauge the effectiveness and safety of biotech firm Moderna’s vaccine candidate. But inoculations are months away even with the accelerated timeline. Public health experts don’t expect to see broadly accessible vaccinations until December, a wait that could stretch into spring 2021.
Silicon Valley has taken varying approaches to lessen the health risks for its workers. Remote working was widely adopted in March, and many companies have signaled plans to reopen offices in January.
Facebook’s current plan is keep its 48,000 workers at home through the end of the year, though CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in May that he expects as many as half of them to permanently transition to remote work in the next decade. Amazon’s corporate employees also are expected to telecommute through 2020. Snap recently extended its timeline from September to January.