Google on Tuesday rolled out a tool for its employees to request office changes or apply to become fully remote workers, as companies around the world look to a post-pandemic work environment and try to figure out the logistics of managing a more sprawling work force.
In May, CEO Sundar Pichai announced plans for 20% of the company to permanently work remotely. The company said another 20% of employees could work from a Google office other than their normally assigned one if they wanted to. The other 60% would be working from their normal office campus a few days a week.
If Google employees request transfers to new markets, their compensations would be adjusted to the rates of the local region. For many employees working in San Francisco or New York, that could mean a decrease if they are moving to smaller markets. The new software, called the Work Location Tool, will show employees estimates of how their salaries might change depending on location.
"With our new hybrid workplace, more employees are considering where they live and how they work," a Google spokeswoman said in a statement. "To better equip people with the information they need to explore their options, we've built a tool that will allow all employees to request to move to a new location, or go remote."
The spokeswoman said the company will pay employees at the top of the local market, and equity won't decrease for transferring US employees. She didn't answer additional questions about policies around pay cuts or how transferring could affect bonuses.
The new tool highlights the several factors companies need to consider as they move to hybrid work models. Flexibility has become a key issue as companies try to bring employees back into offices after more than a year of remote work. Some companies, like Reddit, have announced that they will not alter employee pay if they move out of expensive areas like the San Francisco Bay Area or New York City.
Altering salaries, however, could hurt morale at Google, said Jake Rosenfeld, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who researches compensation. "Equal pay for equal work is often more than a slogan," he said. "Any cut to it can be taken as an insult, regardless of the economic rationale."
Google was one of the first big companies to let its massive employee base work from home when the coronavirus pandemic took hold. The company won't require employees to return to offices in any capacity until September of this year.
Other tech companies have also been rethinking what work at the office could look like after the pandemic. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last year that the social-networking giant will allow some employees to work from home permanently. He said about half of Facebook's workforce could work remotely over the next five to 10 years. Twitter made a similar announcement, and CEO Jack Dorsey also extended the policy to his other company, mobile-payments firm Square.
Update, 11:38 a.m. PT: A Google spokeswoman initially gave CNET the incorrect name of the tool. It's the Work Location Tool.