Google has announced plans to start bringing workers back to the company’s offices in the Puget Sound region, including on campuses in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood and in Kirkland, Wash.
Some buildings in those areas will be opening on April 20. The plan is to operate at less than 20% capacity, the company told GeekWire Wednesday, and employees will have an opportunity to reserve desks if they want to go into the office.
A spokesperson added that returning to in-person work is purely optional and everyone still has the option to work from home until September. Offices will look a bit different than they did a year ago, but where possible there will be meals, snacks, and other amenities, the company said.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Google employs 6,300 people in Washington state, and its Seattle-area offices were the first to transition to a work-from-home model in the U.S. at the beginning of March 2020 when the coronavirus first arrived in the region. Those offices are now some of the tech giant’s first to reopen.
“Offices will begin to open in a limited capacity based on specific criteria that include increases in vaccine availability and downward trends in COVID-19 cases,” Fiona Cicconi, Google’s chief people officer, said in an email to employees last month, according to The New York Times. “We advise you to get a vaccine, though it will not be mandatory to have one in order for Googlers to return to the office.”
After Sept. 1, Google will require employees to formally apply for more than 14 days per year of remote work, CNBC noted, and the company expects employees to come to the office three days a week.
Google operates a substantial engineering center across multiple locations in the Seattle area, including an expanding campus in Kirkland and a complex in South Lake Union in the shadow of Amazon’s headquarters.
The company announced last month, even as the pandemic has upended traditional work and in-person requirements, that it is still growing its physical footprint across the U.S. It plans to invest $7 billion in offices and data centers across states this year and will create 10,000 full-time jobs in the U.S. this year.
Google has ongoing construction work at its new Kirkland Urban campus east of Seattle. It also last year signed an agreement to buy nearly 10 acres of land at a car dealership site just down the street in Kirkland.
Construction is also underway at Block 38 at 520 Westlake, one of five buildings that will make up Google’s 900,000 square-foot campus in South Lake Union.
Amazon told employees in a memo last month that it expects most U.S. corporate office workers back in the office by early fall. It was the most recent update on remote work since Amazon said employees could continue to do their jobs from home through June 30.
Microsoft started bringing employees back recently to its Redmond, Wash., headquarters campus while also releasing new details about its plans for a hybrid workplace model.