Despite being one of the first to embrace remote work, Google is adamant about getting its employees back in the office. This hybrid, “flexible workweek” is part of the company’s belief that in-person — and often unplanned — interactions spur new ideas and solutions. Google today shared its plan for post-pandemic offices. 

The New York Times summarizes Google’s upcoming vision as “IKEA meets Lego.” “Team Pods” of movable chairs, desks, and digital whiteboards could replace rows of desks, while a “Campfire” conference room concept features large wall screens for those on video so that “virtual participants are on the same footing as those physically present.” 

Other developments include movable walls, “fabric-based overhead air duct system that attaches with zippers,” and privacy robots that inflate balloon walls. Google has long been interested in the idea of movable physical spaces that can adapt to the current needs of a team. One shared desk prototype can automatically adjust height and monitor tilt once employees badge in.

These plans will be applied to 10% of Google’s global office space over the next year. One place where it will be able to implement these plans more fully is upcoming offices in Mountain View. Charleston East and other similarly styled buildings could be completed by early next year. 

Google is also building outdoor working spaces on parking lots and lawns that feature open-air tents and teepees. Other short-term changes include cafeteria buffets switching to boxed meals and individually packaged snacks, while employees will have a rotation schedule to return to their permanent desks where they will have no immediate neighbors. Offices will only use fresh air rather than an outside/recirculated mix.

Ultimately, Google has to factor how most — around 70% — of its employees have liked working from home when reinventing and redesigning post-pandemic offices. More images are available in the the Times article.

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