Google is backing a return to the office with an investment that will expand its UK capacity by 50% and “reinvigorate” the work environment.
The search engine giant is spending £730 million ($1 billion) and expects headcount to increase from 6,400 to 10,000.
It is purchasing one of the London sites where it is currently a tenant, Central Saint Giles.
Google’s UK boss, Ronan Harris, told the BBC that the investment reflected the company’s confidence in the office as a place of work.
“We’d like to revitalise the workplace. We’ve made the decision to rebuild. We’re buying these buildings because we want everyone to come back in and see a vibrant workspace again “Mr. Harris stated.
In addition to purchasing the Central Saint Giles site, Google announced a multi-million pound refurbishment of its offices there to bring them up to par with those in its new King’s Cross development, which is currently under construction.
According to the firm, this will provide more space so that offices can be less densely populated, as well as collaboration spaces and “inclusive meeting rooms for hybrid working” as well as covered outdoor workspaces.
The current government guidance is to work from home whenever possible, but this, as well as other government restrictions, will be reviewed on January 26.
Google eventually wants the vast majority of its employees to return to the office three days per week.
Employers, on the other hand, are still figuring things out as the country emerges from two years of pandemic-forced changes, during which many people adapted to completely new ways of working.
“I think the next two [years] will be an experiment in figuring out what hybrid and flexible actually mean,” Mr Harris said.
“And I believe it will vary from company to company and role to role. Over the next two years, I believe there will be a lot of trial and error.”
Chancellor Rishi Sunak praised Google’s investment, calling it “a significant vote of confidence in the UK as a world-leading tech hub.”
The CBI, the employers’ group, stated that a return to work was critical for economic recovery, particularly for the UK’s town and city centres.
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Retail and hospitality businesses, in particular, are eager for office workers to resume old habits such as picking up coffees, sandwiches, and shopping during the day and going out after work in the evening.
Many employees, however, do not want to return to the office full-time, and the number of days that employers require their employees to attend in person is emerging as a key point of differentiation in the recruitment process.
The Recruitment and Employment Confederation’s Neil Carberry told the BBC: “Pay used to be the primary negotiating tool for employers. Office attendance is now a major topic of discussion between companies and potential employees.”