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Google to retain work from home until July 2021

On Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal, Google announced that it would be maintaining its work from home set up until July 2021. The Final Round panel discusses what impact this could have on the tech industry moving forward.

Video Transcript

MYLES UDLAND: All right, well, related to the vaccine, the future of the coronavirus world and certainly something we're thinking about a lot here as a New York City-based company that has been working from home now for five months, and that is news from Google today that the company is not really planning on bringing anybody back to their offices until one year from today.

And, Melody Hahm, when I saw this story this morning I thought, well, you know, sure. Obviously. And I think it also speaks to the opportunities that some companies have that other businesses are not going to have.

And what I mean is Google can afford to wait forever. They have no incentive. They're doing basically fine. They're one of the biggest companies in the world, and they can just ride this out. Not every business has that luxury, and yet it seems quite clear that Google and a few of their peers are the only ones that are able to, you know, kind of act most safely during this time. Other people are going to be forced to make, I think, hard and potentially unsafe dangerous decisions.

MELODY HAHM: Myles, this is a story line we've been covering from the very beginning. I think Jack Dorsey of Twitter was sort of the most proactive to come out early on and say actually Twitter employees are allowed to work from home indefinitely. This is something that will be a longstanding trend, that he won't force people to come back into the office.

That begs the question for me-- the two big takeaways that I have is the San Francisco real-estate market, which we've already seen completely reversing course over the last couple of months as people are leaving their one-year leases, as people are trying to figure out a different place to live because let's be real. San Francisco is not an ideal place to live not only for rent prices but I think just in terms of the homelessness epidemic, the kind of difficulty in finding, you know, affordable places that are pretty easy to commute to.

And then the second point here is looking at the people who rely on these offices to be open-- so cleaning people, facilities folks, people who work in catering, the dining industry. Just think about how much of a cottage industry these tech companies actually provided for a lot of the low-income folks that did depend on this income.

I can tell you firsthand, even the Playa Vista office of Verizon Media, I have swung by maybe once every couple weeks. There's still one person there cleaning up. Of course, no one is actually in the office to create the mess that normally exists. So again, that begs the question of what about this ripple effect that we are seeing-- you know, that we've seen in hospitality as well, especially with hotels? Even if they are open, if there's not enough demand, then who are the first people to get laid off? They're the cleaning employees and the facilities folks.

So, Myles, to your point, I think this further chasm that we've seen accelerated and the divide continuing to grow during the pandemic-- unfortunately, this is great news for people-- those 200,000 folks at a company like Google who can care for their kids, who can figure out flexible options, who can move to Austin, for all we know. But unfortunately, I am concerned for the lower rung, the lower strata of income folks here.

JEN ROGERS: I think Melody is really spot on with that. I'm not going to take the bait on San Francisco not being the ideal place to live. We can have that conversation another time.

But aside from the cottage industry and those jobs that are being impacted, I think we just need to remember employees for these tech companies have been treated like royalty for years, right? They have dry cleaning on their campus. They've got food that you get to take home for dinner. You know, there's even, you know, exercise classes and massages and all sorts of stuff. Like, that's been going on forever. So this is a luxury item that they are able to deliver to their employees.

And you know what the real luxury here is? It's certainty. We talk about the market not liking uncertainty. Well, people don't like uncertainty either, and all everybody wants right now is for somebody to tell us when school's going back and when we're going back to work.

So at least if you're a big company and you have the luxury of making a decision, they are giving that certainty to people, which is just a huge-- I mean, it's so-- just for your peace of mind to know, right, Mel? Like, I'm going to move to Austin, or I'm going to home school, or let's, you know, figure out-- like, fine, let's buy that desk because we're going to be here for a long time. So I think, in the end, it's really just about having that certainty.

MYLES UDLAND: So what is happening with school? We don't have time for this now, but I [INAUDIBLE].

JEN ROGERS: That is a very good question. I mean, it's a patchwork. Nobody knows what's happening with school, and they're not going to know until like the day of probably-- the day before. It's just going to be-- it's crazy.

But if you at least know-- this is the thing, what Melody was saying too, the decisions you can make based off this news. And again, it's a luxury, but these are the most powerful and most profitable companies on the globe. So they can make it, and then you can figure out, well, maybe we'll-- people want to move somewhere, or they want to get some extra help, or, you know, people-- these companies and these employees have resources.

MYLES UDLAND: Yeah. Phase one of the crisis, everyone does the same thing. And now we're into phase two, and the decisions are going to start to be different. And I think a lot of people are going to be uncomfortable with the positions that they are put in, whether it comes to school, work, or otherwise.