Google has already been looking at more flexible offices that reduce risks and enable remote work, such as in-office presentation booths for online sessions and outdoor spaces for larger company gatherings.
Google has repeatedly pushed back its office return strategy. It was optimistic about a return to work as early as July 2020, but delayed that to September, then January 2021, and more recently July 2021. The new timeline is an acknowledgment that the recovery might take a long time, and that it might not be safe until most or all employees have taken a vaccine.
The remote work plan isn’t the most ambitious. Companies like Twitter are allowing employees to work from home indefinitely, while Shopify and others have indicated that most staff will work remotely by default. Google is clearly larger than either, however, and what it does might set an example for other companies as they consider how office work might resume.