In a lot of ways, the announcement Monday, first reported by The Wall Street Journal, that Google would allow its employees to work remotely until next July isn't all that surprising. Other companies, Twitter, in particular, have gone further to say that its employees could work from home forever if they want.
Except, this is a little different.
See, as far as it seems, Google plans to bring its employees back to the office. The company had previously said that employees should expect to be back at the Googleplex by January 2021. That's the same timeline as Amazon's. Apple hasn't said for sure, but indicated it wouldn't be before the end of the year. Microsoft, on the other hand, has said it would return employees to the office in October.
Now Google has extended that another six months, acknowledging what many people fear: The global pandemic isn't going away anytime soon--and neither is working from home.
The Wall Street Journal's report said the company's CEO, Sundar Pichai, sent a personal note to staff that said: "I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months."
One of the reasons Pichai gave is that he wanted to give his team the ability to make plans for the entire next school year. That's actually a pretty big deal. Considering many schools are in the process of figuring out what to do--many opting for online learning for at least the first part of the year--knowing what to expect is a big deal for parents. If your child is going to be learning from home, working from home may very well be a must.
There's actually a valuable lesson here, which is that work--while important--is only one part of a complex set of circumstances that make up a person's life. The more information they have, and the sooner they have it, the better the decisions they're able to make.
It's hard to make decisions without knowing what's going to happen. Right now, no one really knows what's going to happen, which means we're all afraid of making the wrong decisions. What if we reopen and things get worse? That's certainly a worst-case scenario that every business should plan to avoid. On the other hand, what if everything is better in a few months and I've told my team to stay home?
Wouldn't that be wonderful?
If everything is wonderful, we can get back to normal. And normal, by definition, is something we're used to. Sure, there's stuff you would need to do to prepare, but you've done normal before, and so has your team.
But since no one knows when we'll see normal again, or what it may actually look like, your team is counting on you to make a decision. Their lives, in many ways, depend on it.