Google CEO defends desk-sharing saying offices are 'like a ghost town'

According to Google CEO Sundar Pichai, desk-sharing is a way to be efficient and save money.

Wikimedia Commons

Google staff recently criticized the company’s new desk-sharing policy which calls on employees to share desks at five locations including New York and San Francisco. This downsizing effort is being referred to as Cloud Office Evolution, or CLOE. During an all-hands meeting last week, several employees pushed back on desk-sharing, leading to CEO Sundar Pichai chiming in with comments about why the policy is being implemented.

More specifically, Pichai notes that desk-sharing is a way to be efficient and save money, before adding that the office feels like a ghost town with “big swaths of empty desks.”

“To me it’s obvious that they are trying to be efficient and save money but at the same time also utilize resources,” Pichai said in a companywide meeting last week, with CNBC obtaining the audio and transcribing it. “There are people, by the way, who routinely complain that they come in and there are big swaths of empty desks and it feels like it’s a ghost town — it’s just not a nice experience."

Pichai also remarked on some employees coming into the office “only two days a week” and how this isn’t an efficient use of the company’s current office space. "We should be good stewards of financial resources. We have expensive real estate. And if they’re only utilized 30% of the time, we have to be careful in how we think about it,” Pichai explained.

Google headquarters showing the front of the building and large Google sign
© Greenbiz

As of right now, the desk-sharing policy is exclusive to cloud employees. However, there’s certainly potential for it to be adopted elsewhere given that Google is expecting to incur around $500 million in costs during the current period as a result of reduced global office space, slowing revenue growth, and recession concerns.

Google seems to have seen good results from it as well, with Google Cloud’s strategy and operations vice president, Anas Osman, saying that desk-sharing has led to increased productivity. “The data from the pilot shows that Googlers reported significantly better collaboration when they had assigned days in the office even if that was in a rotational model and a shared desk,” Osman said.

Moving forward, it’ll be interesting to see whether Google will update its desk-sharing policy due to employee pushback, or if it’ll proceed to implement it elsewhere. We’ll be sure to keep you updated, and if you’re looking to catch up with other Google news, be sure to read through some of our previous coverage as well including the initial rollout of Google asking its employees to share desks, and Google workers blaming CEO Sundar Pichai for rocky launch of the company’s AI chatbot, Bard.

Senior Editor

Morgan is a writer from the frozen wastelands of Maine who enjoys metal music, kpop, horror, and indie games. They're also a Tetris fanatic who's fiercely competitive in games like Tetris 99... and all games in general. But mostly Tetris. You can follow Morgan on Twitter @Author_MShaver.

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