Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai told his employees this week when, and how, they'll be returning to the office. But they may not get there anytime soon.

In an email to employees this week, Pichai said Alphabet, Google's parent company, will require workers to "gradually" return to the office in a manner that ensures safety and reduces anxiety. Pichai said in the e-mail, which was earlier obtained by Business Insider, that he doesn't anticipate an office's entire staff going back to work at the same time.

"Not everyone at a site will go back at once," he wrote. "There will be no one-size-fits-all approach, and the specific guidance will vary from location to location." 

Pichai's comments come as companies both big and small continue to wrestle with bringing employees back to the office in the shadow of the coronavirus outbreak. While the pandemic has eased in some areas, health experts say vigilance is essential as lawmakers and business leaders consider ways to reopen economies.

For companies, the problem is especially acute. There are some businesses that can work well with remote workforces and sidestep social distancing measures that would be required in the office. In other companies, however, office work is required, and trying to determine how best to bring employees back is a major concern.

Pichai told his global employee base that Google will not ask them to come back to the office until June 1, at the very earliest. Even then, he cautioned, timelines could be different, depending on where the employees work and the coronavirus status at that time.

Pichai took an even more nuanced approach to specific-employee circumstances. He said, for instance, that if an employee, or someone for whom they're caring, has "special considerations," the company won't require them to come back to the office and promises to be "flexible" with their circumstances.

Ultimately, each company's situation is different, but with nearly 115,000 employees worldwide, Google can, and perhaps may, act as a model for companies eyeing their own returns. And by the sound of it, the process will take time and won't be easy.

"I know that the prospect of returning to the office will produce different emotions for everyone," Pichai acknowledged.