Why Google’s hybrid work experiment is a case study for all companies on return-to-office policy

May 19, 2022, 12:00 PM UTC

If you’re up for a challenge, try orchestrating a hybrid work system for tens of thousands of employees. It’s a tall order for any company, and an especially onerous one for Google—the 165,000-person-strong tech giant that desperately wants to avoid the “corporate” label.

That’s according to a new feature published this week by my colleague Beth Kowitt. In May of last year, Alphabet first revealed its intentions to employees to bring them back into the office in a 3/2 fashion (three days in the office, two from home). Staffers can also apply to work remote full-time, although that might trigger a pay cut. This whole experiment officially began last month.

Google’s struggle with back-to-work is a case study for all companies—as are the approaches at Goldman Sachs or Airbnb. Employees don’t seem thrilled with any one method, and the jury’s out for which model will ultimately make the most sense. That’s the thing: Where you work, and where you want to work, are questions that have gotten complicated.

At Google, it took some time for even the executives to all get on board with the model. The company’s Chief People Officer—who was one of the 50,000 hires Google made during the pandemic, and who had never stepped into any of the company’s U.S. offices when the company first announced its new hybrid plans last year—seems to think Google’s plan isn’t lax enough. “To her, it’s a starting point while employees figure out what works best,” Kowitt writes.

As for what employees told Kowitt, it’s a mixed bag: Some were thrilled (free food!), some wanted more flexibility, some said Google’s management hadn’t been forthcoming about how the company determined it was safe to go back.

But most controversial is the matter of compensation. For the 17,000 Googlers who have relocated or gone fully remote during COVID, it could mean a pay cut—depending on where they landed, as they are subject to Google’s pre-existing comp plan. Google employees in New York or Mountain View are paid the most. Those in level two cities, like Chicago, are paid 15% less, while employees in cities like Raleigh-Durham make 25% less. “The premise of having your salary adjusted for doing the same exact thing, just in a different zip code, has become perhaps the biggest sticking point for employees—even those who are grateful for the option,” Kowitt writes.

The transition hasn’t been seamless. The first week of April—after two years of remote work—Google called its employees back into the office. That week, roadwork caused hour-long traffic for staffers trying to leave the main campus in Mountain View. And people were missing desks in a few locations.

But about a month in, employees seem to be adjusting, or moving on altogether. And perks like Lizzo concerts are reminding some employees why they liked the office in the first place.

You can read Kowitt’s full story here.

See you tomorrow,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com
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- Glean, a Palo Alto-based virtual work assistant, raised $100 million in Series C funding led by Sequoia Capital

- Masterschool, a Tel Aviv-based network of tech career-training schools, raised $100 million in seed funding led by Group 11 and was joined by investors including Target Global, Pitango Ventures, Dynamic Loop Capital, Sir Ronald Cohen, and others. 

- Infinitum Electric, an Austin-based air-core motor creator company, raised $80 million in Series D funding led by Riverstone Holdings and was joined by investors including Alliance Resource Partners, Applied Ventures, Cottonwood Technology Fund, Chevron Technology Ventures, Aventurine Partners, Energy Innovation Capital, and Ajax Strategies

- Forma.ai, a Toronto-based sales performance management solution, raised $45 million in Series B funding led by ACME Capital and was joined by investors including Crosslink Capital, Golden Ventures, Uncork Capital, Xfund, and Gaingels

- Seclore, a Milpitas, Calif.-based security and rights management platform for data, raised $27 million in Series C funding led by Origami Capital Partners and Oquirrh Ventures

- Heartex, a San Francisco-based data labeling platform, raised $25 million in Series A funding led by Redpoint and was joined by investors including Unusual Ventures, Bow Capital, Swift Ventures, and other angels. 

- Azra Games, a Sacramento-based blockchain games company, raised $15 million in seed funding led by Andreessen Horowitz and was joined by investors including NFX, Coinbase Ventures, Play Ventures, and Franklin Templeton Investments

- FreshCut, a Los Angeles-based Web3 short-form gaming content platform, raised $15 million in funding from investors including Galaxy Interactive, Polygon, Animoca Brands, Republic Crypto, and Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin

- Greater Good Health, a Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based health care startup, raised $10 million in funding led by LRVHealth and was joined by investors including Martin Ventures, Health Velocity Capital, Optum Ventures, and other angels.

- CipherMode Labs, a Los Angeles-based data privacy and sharing encryption platform, raised $6.7 million in seed funding led by Innovation Endeavors and was joined by investors including Pillar VC, the National Science Foundation, and others. 

- Adgile Media Group, a New York-based advertising company, raised $5 million in seed funding led by Brand Foundry Ventures and was joined by investors including Amity Supply, Finn Capital Partners, Consumer Ventures, and others. 

- Candor, a New York-based professional network platform, raised $5 million in funding from investors including Contrary Capital, Afore Capital, Worklife, Village Global, Global Founders Capital, Banana Capital, and other angels. 

- Blinq, a Melbourne-based digital business card company, raised AUD$5 million ($3.5 million) from investors including Blackbird and Square Peg Capital


- Ara Partners invested $80 million in Blue Whale Materials, a Washington D.C.-based lithium-ion battery recycling platform.

- Alliance Pharma, a portfolio company of Ampersand, agreed to acquire DDS, a Cambridge and Sandwich, U.K.-based drug developer. KKR and Ampersand Capital Partners will become equal shareholders in the deal.

- Futura Healthcare, backed by Renovus Capital Partners, acquired Winola Lake Health IT, a Pipersville, Pa.-based health IT company. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

- KKR acquired a majority stake in Alchemer, a Louisville, Colo.-based feedback and data collection platform. Financial terms were not disclosed.  

- North Sixth Group acquired America Oggi, a Norwood, N.J.-based publishing brand, and Il Progresso, a New York-based publishing brand. Financial terms were not disclosed.  

- Planview, backed by TPG and TA Associates, agreed to acquire Tasktop, a Vancouver-based value stream management platform. Financial terms were not disclosed.


- MannKind Corporation acquired V-Go, an insulin wearable patch, from Danbury, Conn. and Westlake Village, Calif.-based Zealand Pharma for $10 million upfront plus sales-based milestones.

- Strava acquired Recover Athletics, a Boston-based injury prevention app for runners. Financial terms were not disclosed. 


- Surf Air Mobility, a Los Angeles-based electric aviation and air travel company, agreed to go public via a merger with Tuscan Holdings Corporation II, a SPAC. A deal is valued at $1.42 billion. 

- Carousell, a Singapore-based online classifieds marketplace operator, withdrew its plans to go public via a merger with L Catterton Asia Acquisition Corp., a SPAC, amid market volatility, according to Bloomberg.

- Marti, a Turkey-based electric scooter and bike-sharing app, agreed to go public via a merger with Galata Acquisition Corp., a SPAC, according to Bloomberg. 


- Clearlake Capital Group, a Santa Monica-based investment firm, raised $14.1 billion for a seventh fund focused on the technology, industrial, and consumer sectors.

- Generation Investment Management, a London and San Francisco-based investment firm, raised $1.7 billion for a fourth fund focused on planetary health, people health, and financial inclusion growth-stage companies. 

- HealthQuest Capital, a Belmont, Calif.-based venture fund, raised $675 million for a fourth fund focused on growth-stage companies in the health care industry.

- Andreessen Horowitz, a Menlo Park-based venture capital firm, raised $600 million for a new fund focused on the gaming industry.

- Lightrock, a London-based private equity platform, raised $300 million for a fund focused on Latin America. 

- Good Growth Capital, a Boston and Charleston, S.C.-based venture capital fund, raised $102 million for a fund focused on data science, green tech, hard science, fintech, food tech, and energy efficiency companies.

- Flying Fish Partners, a Seattle-based venture capital firm, raised $70 million for a second fund focused on entrepreneurs and early-stage companies in the A.I. and ML sectors in the U.S. and Canada.


- Angeles Equity Partners, a Santa Monica-based private investment firm, hired Te'Rhon O'Neal and Jamie Brown as vice presidents. Formerly, O’Neal was with Westhook Capital and Brown was with Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners. 

- Antler, a Singapore-founded venture capital firm, hired Lisa Potocsnak as an associate partner. Formerly, she was with Tribe Capital.

- Building Ventures, a Boston-based venture capital firm, promoted Heather Widman to partner. 

- FTV Capital, a New York and San Francisco-based growth equity investor, hired Kapil Venkatachalam as partner. Formerly, he was with TCV.

- Genoa Ventures, a San Francisco-based venture capital fund, promoted Vikram Chaudhery to partner and hired Amy Harris as vice president of finance. Formerly, Harris was with Village Global

- Numeta Capital, a Los Angeles-based growth equity firm, hired Jared Johnson as an associate. Formerly, he was with Barclays.

- Tusk Ventures, a New York-based venture capital firm, promoted Rachel Livingston to head of digital platform. 

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