FULTON MARKET — Mimosas, cupcakes, prize raffles and a full-service breakfast bar welcomed back nearly 2,000 employees at Google’s Midwest headquarters in Fulton Market Tuesday.
They also arrived at the office with new rules. With its official reopening this week, Google executives said the company has adopted a “flexible workweek” with employees required to work from the office three days a week, with no planned date to implement a full five-day return.
“Three days a week we feel is the right balance of giving people the flexibility that they need, but also bringing people together to have more collaboration,” said Rob Biederman, director of government relations for Google.
For some employees hired during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Tuesday was their first time ever being in the office. For others, who had already been coming into the office voluntarily, it was a welcomed sight to see their colleagues fill the seats next to them.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot even spent part of her morning welcoming employees back to the tech giant’s offices stopping at several tables to say hello to unexpecting staff who greeted the mayor enthusiastically.
Lightfoot said she was happy to see part of Fulton Market’s workforce return to the office.
Google’s Midwest headquarters, 1000 W. Fulton Market, closed in mid-March 2020 as COVID-19 started to spread. The offices were initially supposed to be closed for a month. In December 2020, the company announced it would delay its return to the office until at least fall 2021.
Biederman said the company ushered in more employees into the office Tuesday than it had before the start of the pandemic, calling it “significant growth.” He believes part of that is because of a growing need for technology and a “strong talent pool” in Chicago.
Google had 1,200 employees in Chicago in November 2019, according to a Tribune report at the time. That number has grown to almost 2,000, Biederman said.
Yaseline Muñoz, a customer development representative with Google Cloud, told Block Club she started with the company in January and was excited to see so many people in the office.
“I’m looking forward to collaborations in person,” Muñoz said. “I think working on video is really nice but in person you get more done.”
Daniel Johnson, an associate product marketing manager, has been with Google for about a year and a half and will be meeting his boss for the first time in-person in the coming days.
“I think I’ll benefit from looking to my left and right and have coworkers that I can ask questions to … or even just have the hallways conversations,” Johnson said.
Google has over 500 jobs available for its Chicago office, according to its career page. A majority of the jobs listed are for engineering and technology along with sales, service and customer support.
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