Some Google employees are questioning the company’s return-to-office requirements because they are often receiving notifications from management about Covid-19 infections.
Employees who spoke to CNBC on the condition of anonymity claimed that since being instructed to return to their desks, notices of infections had been often appearing in their email inboxes. Employees are responding indignantly and with memes.
At April, the business mandated that most workers spend at least three days a week in their actual offices. After working productively at home for so long and helping the company experience some of its greatest sales growth in 15 years, employees have since resisted the demand. Although it’s unknown how many requests for permanent remote work have been approved, Google has given full-time staff the option to do so.
According to the city’s public health dashboard, Google is presently the employer in Los Angeles with the highest Covid-19 epidemic. Deadline.com was the first to reveal that the computer giant’s chic Silicon Beach campus in Venice, California, had 145 illnesses while the company’s sizable Playa Vista campus had 135 cases.
There hasn’t been a noticeably higher rate of onsite COVID-19 transmission on our campuses, a Google spokeswoman told CNBC. The figures that have been reported in Playa Vista and Venice do not represent current or ongoing instances, but rather the overall number of cases over the past few months.
Employees have begun uploading memes regarding the rise in exposure notifications to Memegen, a private company image-sharing platform. One joke, which received 2,840 upvotes, featured a picture of an inbox with the subject line “Notification of Confirmed COVID-19 Case” and “We’re so thrilled to see you back in the office!” from a San Francisco-based facilities manager.
Another meme with a large number of likes began with the words “How it started” and an image of a rainbow arch, continued with the words “How it’s going,” and ended with the words “Notification of confirmed Covid-19 case.” Another image showed a joyful Pokemon enjoying a campus tour in the Bay Area, followed by images of a concerned Pokemon who had received a Covid-19 notification and a Pokemon that was scared after receiving 29 exposure notifications. I didn’t know there were this many “Notification of Confirmed COVID-19 Cases” in the entire galaxy, reads the caption of another meme featuring the Star Wars character Rey.
Some workers claimed they noticed an increase in notifications from the Mountain View, California, and San Francisco offices following the company’s return-to-work event, which featured a performance by Grammy Award-winning musician Lizzo for a large crowd of workers at the Shoreline Amphitheater, close to Google’s main campus.
The Google spokeswoman also stated that when assessing what constitutes a Covid epidemic and when to issue exposure alerts, the business follows the guidelines established by state and local authorities.
Unvaccinated workers struggle to return to the workplace.
Google warned its employees in December that failure to abide by its vaccination standards could result in both pay loss and job termination. Then, in February, it loosened the restrictions requiring vaccinations as well as other standards relating to testing, social distance, and masks before asking staff to report back.
But entry into actual workplaces still required Covid-19 immunisation.
Some Google employees are now requesting the firm to remove the vaccination requirement, claiming Covid-19 outbreaks continue to occur at workplaces when people are completely immunised. The group contends in a manifesto titled “No Vaccine Mandate,” which was released last month and viewed by CNBC, that the vaccines aren’t as effective against the highly transmissible BA.5 variation, the fastest-spreading variant of Covid-19 known date, even though it still offers a degree of protection. (The vaccines continue to offer effective protection against serious illness and death, including those caused by the BA.5 variation, but they offer little protection against infection or minor sickness.)
The organisation, which names itself Googlers for No Vaccine Mandate, is upset because non-vaccinated staff members and those who choose not to disclose their vaccination status are still barred from offices and other meetings including off-sites, summits, and team functions, according to the anonymous manifesto. Additionally, it alleges that certain Google employees have yet to meet their teams since March 2020 and that some employees were never informed of the vaccine policy throughout the hiring process.
“Since December 2021, Omicron and its subvariants have been spreading through Google workplaces without respect for immunisation status, and we’ve observed waves of Covid. Numerous properly immunised and boosted coworkers have called in sick with Covid for several days. We have observed both fear and amicable reactions to the deluge of exposure notifications that office workers have received.
Boeing, Intel, and United Airlines are among the companies that once required Covid vaccinations but have since abandoned them, citing a federal court’s ruling that made it illegal to enforce the federal contractor executive order that mandated vaccinations for major employers who are also government contractors. According to the group’s manifesto, it hopes Google leadership follows suit.
Although CNBC is aware of the identity of certain members, the organisation is primarily anonymous. It states that it employs hundreds of people in fields like engineering, programme management, UX design, education, sales, marketing, and finance, with tenures of up to 10 years. Additionally, it covers Google employees who “think the company’s vaccine policy is a violation of privacy and is insensitive to individual circumstances and risk factors” despite having received all recommended vaccinations.
The message adds, “We’re writing to seek for your assistance for a handful of Googlers who still aren’t allowed back to our offices. “Because our direct appeals to Google leadership have been disregarded, we are reaching out to you as colleagues and peers. Consider how Googlers who are prohibited from full participation by the vaccine policy might be acknowledged and included when preparing an in-person meeting, conference, or offsite.