Google is extending its work from home policy until July 2021 as it faces difficulty reopening global offices in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a leaked memo published in full by Business Insider, Google CEO Sundar Pichai told staff that the extended arrangements will “give employees the ability to plan ahead”.

“We'll be extending our global voluntary work from home option through June 30, 2021 for roles that don't need to be in the office,” he said.

“I hope this will offer the flexibility you need to balance work with taking care of yourselves and your loved ones over the next 12 months.”

According to Pichai, Google has already reopened offices in 42 countries after joining most of Silicon Valley in sending its global workforce home during COVID-19.

While the Google CEO said the company was making “good progress” reopening offices in some regions, Pichai said Google hadn’t opened offices widely “in other parts of the world”.

The Wall Street Journal – which originally reported Google’s pending decision a week ago – said the move will affect around 200,000 full-time and contract staff at Google and its parent company, Alphabet.

The new normal

Early in the pandemic, tech companies signaled the potential of a transition to more permanent work from home arrangements beyond the coronavirus.

Mark Zuckerberg said he expected half of Facebook’s nearly 50,000 staff would work remotely on a permanent basis in the coming years.

And Twitter said it will continue allowing staff to work from home “forever” if they “are in a role and situation that enables them to”.

Sadly, many of the world’s software engineers have been struggling to maintain their productivity and mental health during work from home arrangements.

Recent research, co-led by Sebastian Baltes at the University of Adelaide, found evidence of a decline in both wellbeing and productivity during the pandemic.

The pre-published paper notes that COVID-19 has created unique stressors for remote workers.

“Stress, isolation, travel restrictions, business closures and the absence of educational, child care and fitness facilities are all taking a toll,” the paper concludes.

“Working from home under these conditions is fundamentally different from normal working from home.”

In his staff memo, Sundar Pichai directed staff to a set of wellbeing resources.

“I know this extended timeline may come with mixed emotions and I want to make sure you're taking care of yourselves,” he said.