Google To Unlock California Offices for Staff on Voluntary Basis, No Vaccination Required

Katie Burke

June 8, 2021

Search Engine Giant Navigates Employee Vaccine Debate With July Workplace Reopenings
Google employees will be allowed to return to their California offices starting in July.

Google is dipping its toe into the nation's office-reopening debate with plans to welcome employees back to its California offices on a voluntary basis without any vaccination requirement.

The Mountain View, California-based search engine giant will reopen dozens of offices across the Golden State starting July 12. The move is a precursor to the company's plans to have all of its workers back for at least three days a week by September and another signal that office occupancy is gradually returning to pre-pandemic levels after more than a year of remote work.

While large tech employers, including Google's parent company Alphabet as well as Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft, have said they're eager for employees to return to in-person work, many have been caught in the middle of the return-to-office debate. Some companies are weighing whether to implement vaccination or mask requirements, while others have faced pushback from employees who prefer the flexibility of remote work.

Apple employees, for example, fought back against a company mandate issued earlier this month that would require them to return to the office for a minimum of three days a week starting in early September. Amazon walked back claims it made earlier this year that it was ready for a full return to the office and has since adjusted its plans to allow for employees to work remotely up to two days a week.

For Google, one of the Bay Area's largest employers, workers who voluntarily agree to return to the office but who aren't vaccinated will be required to follow California's mask mandate and will be subject to weekly coronavirus tests. A company spokesperson said employees who can provide proof of vaccination will be released from both of those requirements.

The search engine giant's return to the office is a welcome sign for the Bay Area's office market, which was left reeling from the pandemic and subsequent closures that have resulted over more than a year and a half of remote work.

In San Francisco, for example, more than 10 million square feet of office space, or more than 5.5 % of the city's entire stock, was drained during the 12 months starting in March 2020, according to CoStar data. What's more, despite retaining its title as the most expensive office market in the United States, San Francisco is also the one with the highest amount of sublease availability.

Google is already the largest occupant of real estate in the Bay Area, according to CoStar, and its commercial footprint encompasses more than 25 million square feet of office, flex and industrial space combined throughout the region.