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Good riddance to work from home, Google’s former CEO says

April 5, 2022, 6:35 PM UTC

Google’s voluntary work-from-home policy ended on Monday, April 4. Now employees who didn’t apply for an extension or permission to work from home permanently have to come into the office three times a week. 

One person is really happy about that: former Google CEO Eric Scmidt.

Schmidt, who served as the tech giant’s CEO and chairman from 2001 to 2011, says the change is essential.

Schmidt called himself “a traditionalist” in a new interview with CNBC, noting the often-repeated purported pros of in-person work: collaboration, networking, and young employees’ ability to gain exposure to professional work environments. 

Being in a physical office, said Schmidt, is especially important for workers between the ages of 25 and 35 for developing their management styles.

“In terms of their age, that’s when they learn,” Schmidt told CNBC. “If you miss out [on that] because you are sitting at home on the sofa while you’re working, I don’t know how you build great management. I honestly don’t.”

Schmidt does not see the technologies developed over the last two years as appropriate replacements for in-person work: “I think there is a lot of evidence that humans are social,” he said, “and that the current virtual tools are not the same as the informal networks that occur within a corporation.”

The possible end of the work-from-home era might be fueling the Great Resignation as workers seek out more flexible companies, says psychologist Anthony Klotz, the expert who coined the term. He recently predicted that the Great Resignation could last several more years as workers continue to “sort out” their lives. At Apple, workers have expressed interest in quitting rather than returning to the office.

It’s possible, too, that Google’s current hybrid approach is part of a long-term strategy to achieve Schmidt’s wish of getting workers back full-time.

In a recent interview with Bloomberg, Google’s former chief of human resources Laszlo Bock called the company’s three-day schedule a “boil the frog method,” because he believes Google executives hope to slowly reacclimate workers to fully in-person work, just like the proverbial frog slowly being boiled alive.

Bock said he thinks employers should be more direct with their workers about eventual plans. “That’s not only bad for trust and morale, it’s also not the best thing for employees or for the company,” Bock told Fortune.

Schmidt declined to comment when contacted by Fortune.

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