Google plans to crack down on employees who haven’t been coming into its offices consistently, CNBC has found.
The company updated its hybrid work policy Wednesday and it includes tracking office badge attendance, confronting workers who aren’t coming in when they’re supposed to and including the attendance in employees’ performance reviews, according to internal memos viewed by CNBC. Most employees are expected in physical offices at least three days a week.
Google’s chief people officer Fiona Cicconi wrote an email to employees at the end of the day on Wednesday, which included doubling down on office attendance, reasoning that “there’s just no substitute for coming together in person.”
“Of course, not everyone believes in ‘magical hallway conversations,’ but there’s no question that working together in the same room makes a positive difference,” Cicconi’s email read. “Many of the products we unveiled at I/O and Google Marketing Live last month were conceived, developed and built by teams working side by side.”
Her note said the company will start including their three days per week as a part of their performance reviews and teams will start sending reminders to workers “who are consistently absent from the office.”
Cicconi even asked already-approved remote workers to reconsider. “For those who are remote and who live near a Google office, we hope you’ll consider switching to a hybrid work schedule. Our offices are where you’ll be most connected to Google’s community.”
A separate internal document showed that already-approved remote workers may be subject to re-evaluation if the company determines “material changes in business need, role, team, structure or location.”
In the U.S., the company will periodically track whether employees are adhering to the office attendance using badge data and executives are currently reviewing local requirements to implement in other countries, one of the documents states. If workers don’t follow the policy after an extended period of time, HR will reach out about “next steps.”
Going forward, Cicconi said, new fully remote work will only be granted “by exception only.”
Google did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment.
These policy updates represent the company’s most stringent attempt to bring employees back into physical offices.
In 2021, after facing backlash for returning to offices, the company relaxed remote work plans and said it expected to let 20% of employees telecommute. However, most employees have been expected in physical offices at least three days a week as of April 2022 and at the time, the company tried to woo workers by throwing a private Lizzo concert, hiring marching bands and bringing in city mayors to celebrate the returns.
In April, CNBC reported Google dropped its Covid vaccine requirement to enter buildings.
The crackdown comes as the company is in the middle of an AI arms race by which the company has at times called all hands on deck to rapidly position itself against rivals like Microsoft and its backed ChatGPT, whose success has grown in recent months. The company has also made more attempts in recent weeks to crack down on leaks coming from within the company.
However, the crackdown also comes as the company downsizes its real estate footprint amid broader cost-cutting. In April, CNBC first reported the company’s cloud unit in March told employees that it will transition to a desk-sharing workspace in its five largest locations. CNBC also reported the company indefinitely paused construction on its massive San Jose campus.