Google asks some employees to share offices as part of downsizing
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai gestures during a session at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos.
Fabrice Cofrini | AFP | Getty Images
Google asks employees and cloud partners to share their offices and alternate days with office colleagues starting next quarter, citing “real estate efficiency,” CNBC has learned.
The new desktop sharing model will apply to Google Cloud’s five largest US locations: Kirkland, Washington; New York City; San Francisco; Seattle; and Sunnyvale, Calif. — and is happening so the company “can continue to invest in cloud growth,” according to an internal FAQ recently shared with cloud employees and viewed by CNBC. Some buildings will be released as a result, the document says.
“Most Googlers will now share an office with another Googler,” the internal document says, noting that they expect employees to arrive every other day so they won’t be at the same office on the same day. . “Throughout the pairing process, they will agree on a basic office setup and set standards with their office partner and their teams to ensure a positive experience in the new shared environment.
The FAQ says employees can come in on other days, but if they’re on an unassigned day, they’ll use the “overflow welcome area.”
Internally, management has given the new seating arrangement a title: “Cloud Office Evolution” or “CLOE”, which it describes as “combining the best of pre-pandemic collaboration with the flexibility” of hybrid working. The new workspace plan is not a temporary pilot, the document notes. “It will ultimately lead to more efficient use of our space,” he said.
Google also used its internal data on its employee return-to-desk patterns to inform the decision, the FAQ said. In addition to slower return-to-office patterns, the company slowed hiring and laid off 11,000 employees in January.
Memes began popping up on the company’s Memegen platform, mocking the change – specifically targeting the “corpspeak” used by executives to tout the new office layout in what they saw as a cutback measure costs.
“Not all cost-cutting measures need to be mutilated to sound good to employees,” read one popular meme. “A simple ‘We are reducing office space to reduce costs’ would make leadership more credible.”
A Google spokesperson explained, “Since returning to the office, we’ve launched pilots and conducted cloud employee surveys to explore different hybrid working models and help shape the best experience. Our data shows that Cloud Googlers appreciate the guaranteed in-person collaboration when they’re in the office, as well as the ability to work from home a few days a week.With this feedback, we’ve developed our new rotation model, combining the best of collaboration pre-pandemic with the flexibility and focus we’ve all come to appreciate from remote working, while allowing us to use our spaces more efficiently.”
The move comes as Google shrinks its real estate footprint as part of broader cost-cutting. However, he has not yet specified which regions or buildings he plans to cut.
During its fourth quarter earnings call, Google executives said they expect to incur approximately $500 million in costs related to the reduction in global office space in the current quarter, and warned that further property charges were possible in the future. Earlier this month, SFGate reported the company will end leases for “a number of unoccupied spaces” in the San Francisco Bay Area, the region where its headquarters are located.
The cloud unit, which represents more than a quarter of Googleis one of the fastest growing areas of the business, but is not profitable.
In the fourth quarter, Google Cloud brought in $7.32 billion, growing 32% year-over-year, much faster than the company’s overall growth rate of less than 10%. But that revenue was below Wall Street consensus expectations, and the Cloud unit is still losing hundreds of millions of dollars every quarter — $480 million in Q4, though that’s nearly half of the loss of the previous year.
Overall, however, Google posted net income of $13.62 billion in the quarter and $59.97 billion for all of 2022. Both were significant declines from 2021.
Welcome to the “neighborhood”
Under the new arrangement, teams of 200 to 300 employees “and partners” will be organized into “districts” which may also include “partner teams that are part of other organizations, such as Finance, People Operations, etc.” , the FAQ read. Each ward will have a vice president or director who will be responsible for allocating space in the ward.
Employees usually alternate the days they are in the office, either Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday. They will be on two days a week, a company change requiring employees to come three days a week.
“Neighborhood Managers are encouraged to set standards with their teams around shared desks, ensuring that pairs of Googlers have conversations about how they will or will not decorate the space, store personal items, and expectation of order.”
Additionally, the FAQ states that employees with computer workstations will no longer have those workstations located directly under their desk, but instead will need to look up its location in a database or create a ticket for troubleshooting. Over time, employees should upgrade to CloudTop, a virtual desktop tool that is so far restricted to Google employees only.
The FAQ said it would also cap the number of rooms to be taken for meetings, noting that conference rooms are “already difficult to book”. Employees will be discouraged from “camping out” in a conference room, he added.
As for Covid-19, offices will be disinfected daily and employees will be notified if someone in their area tests positive and reports it to Google.