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Google CEO defends desk-sharing policy, says some offices are like ‘ghost towns’

TechTechnologyGoogle CEO defends desk-sharing policy, says some offices are like 'ghost towns'
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Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai gestures during a session at the World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos on January 22, 2020.

Fabrice Coffrini | AFP | Getty Images

Google CEO sundar pichai defended the cloud unit’s new desk-sharing policy for employees, describing some of the company’s offices as practically empty and reminding employees that real estate is expensive.

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“It’s clear to me that they are trying to be efficient and save money, but at the same time use resources,” Pichai said at a company meeting last week, according to audio obtained by CNBC. “There are people who regularly complain that they come in and there are huge swathes of empty desks and it feels like a ghost town – it’s not a good experience.”

Following are Pichai’s comments cnbc report Last month news about Google’s plan to ask Cloud employees and partners to share desks at the division’s five biggest locations, which include New York and San Francisco, surfaced. The company is calling the downsizing effort Cloud Office Evolution, or CLOE.

Alphabet’s fourth quarter Income In an early February call, executives said they expect Google to incur a cost of about $500 million in the current period related to reduced global office space, as the company grapples with concerns of slowing revenue growth and an ongoing recession.

Pichai indicated that many people come to the office “only two days a week”, which he said makes inefficient use of the current space.

“We have to be good stewards of financial resources,” Pichai said. “We have expensive real estate. And if they’re only used 30% of the time, we have to be careful about how we think about it.”

At the same all-hands meeting, Anas Usman, Google Cloud’s vice president of strategy and operations, said that about one-third of employees were commuting to offices at least four days a week, citing data from a pilot the group has conducted to prepare for the return. organized in connection with for physical locations.

As part of the pilot, Osman said, employees were given the option of having dedicated or shared desks.

“About 35% of those 1 to 1 desks were actually used for four days or more,” Osman said.

In some ways, sharing even led to greater productivity, he said.

,Data from the pilot showed that Googlers reported significantly better collaboration when they had scheduled days in the office, even when it was in a rotational model and a shared desk,” Osman said.

Pichai said the new policy is only for cloud employees at this time, adding that the company is “giving teams the freedom to experiment.” The cloud division makes up about a quarter of the company’s total workforce.

During the meeting, Pichai addressed employees’ concerns about the rollout of the desk-sharing policy and how it was communicated to the workforce. cnbc first informed of Memes began to appear in the internal Memagen system criticizing the messaging from leadership. A popular meme said, “Not every cost-cutting measure should be called a nice word to employees.”

In response to questions and comments submitted by employees, Pichai read one that said, “Double speaking is disrespectful and disappointing,” and “Bad things happen, not every bad thing needs to sound like a miracle.”

Pichai responded by saying, “I agree with the sentiment here. Feedback is valid.”

“We should always strive to be as clear as possible,” Pichai said. “I think it’s important to understand that at our scale, almost all communications are public in nature. You’re talking to the world and there are many stakeholders and so sometimes subtlety is important and words can have a material impact and I think sometimes you see that reflected in some of the communications.”

A Google spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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