Google ditching its vaccine requirement for US office workers — reviving fun perks

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The Google logo seen at the entrance to Google Cloud campus in Seattle.
  • Google had required employees to get vaccinated but dropped the mandate last month, CNBC reported.
  • The company is also lifting some safety protocols such as masks for vaccinated employees.
  • As return-to-office prep begins, Google is also bringing back perks like massages and fitness centres.
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Google is bringing back fun office perks like massage chairs and winnowing its coronavirus-related safety rules as cases drop and the tech giant moves forward with plans to bring most workers back to the offices three days a week, CNBC reported.

The company also told CNBC it dropped its vaccine mandate last month as a condition of employment. 

Google first announced a US vaccine mandate for in-office employees last July amid the spread of the Delta variant. The company then told employees — whether in office or remote — to get vaccinated or they would eventually lose their jobs

Six hundred (less than .05% of the company's workforce) Google employees had drafted a letter opposing the mandate in November. 

A spokesperson for Google, Lora Lee Erickson, told CNBC on Wednesday that the company nixed the vaccination requirement in January, which happened to coincide with the US Supreme Court striking down President Biden's vaccine mandate for large employers. 

Vaccinated or not, those who go back to the office will start to see some of the old Google fun back in the building that was suspended after Covid-19 hit, as per an email sent to San Francisco Bay Area employees, CNBC reported. 

Pre-pandemic, in-office Googlers worldwide had access to things such as rock climbing, gourmet food cafeterias, volleyball courts, and nap pods.

David Radcliffe, vice president of real estate and workplace services at Google, said in the email to employees in the Bay Area this week that they could expect reopened fitness centres and social spaces, massages and massage chairs, back-to-normal service from shuttles, and more free food, according to CNBC. 

Employees also will face less strict pandemic safety measures. Radcliffe said Bay Area offices are removing the weekly testing requirement imposed amid the Omicron wave. The company is also waiving mask and social distancing requirements for vaccinated employees. 

Unvaccinated employees who are greenlighted to go into the office will still have to follow certain guidelines, including testing and mask-wearing, as per Radcliffe's email, according to CNBC.

Google's plan to bring employees into the office three days per week has been delayed multiple times because of coronavirus upticks. According to Radcliffe's email, the company is "preparing to begin its 30-day transition period to the hybrid work week if conditions continue to improve," CNBC wrote. But the company has not provided a definitive date. 

Whenever it happens, Radcliffe said the return to office will be celebrated with welcome-back parties. 

"We're at the beginning of a journey, so the office experience will feel pretty similar to what it was like pre-Covid," Radcliffe said in the email.

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