Tuesday, 20 July 2021 13:41

A senior Google executive who reportedly opposed employees working remotely has caused an internal stir by moving to New Zealand to work remotely himself

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  • The senior Google executive Urs Hölzle is moving to New Zealand to work remotely, CNET reported.
  • His move fueled internal uproar as he reportedly opposed remote work for lower-level staff.
  • Google has said it is planning to have most employees start returning to the office in September.
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A senior Google executive has caused uproar at the company after reportedly moving to New Zealand to work remotely despite opposing remote work for the company’s lower-ranking employees.

Urs Hölzle, Google’s senior vice president for technical infrastructure, told staff on June 29 that he’s headed to New Zealand for a year to work remotely, according to reporting published Thursday in CNET. His move has fed claims of special treatment and a double standard in the company’s stance toward remote work. He strongly opposed remote work for Google employees who didn’t have a certain seniority level or wouldn’t be assigned to an office, a resigning employee told CNET.

"After three decades in the US, my wife and I both felt it was time to consider a new location," Hölzle wrote in a company memo reviewed by CNET. "We’ve decided to spend a year in New Zealand and see how we like it."

A Google spokesperson told Insider that Hölzle never opposed remote work for employees who didn’t have a certain seniority level or wouldn’t be assigned to an office.

Hölzle requested and got approval for the move last year, before Google announced its plans to return to the office, but he was delayed in his relocation because of the pandemic, the company spokesperson told Insider.

Hölzle also said in the announcement that he will continue to work on California time and will drop by the office occasionally, saying he plans to be in the Bay Area "on a regular basis" as travel restrictions ease.

"If things go well, we may decide to stay longer," he continued in the memo. He concluded, "I’m looking forward to this adventure and to sharing the results of our relocation ‘experiment’ with you."

Google has previously announced plans to have most employees start returning to the office in September for three days a week. The company later modified those plans to say 20% of employees can work from new office locations and 20% can work remotely. The remaining 60% will come in the office a few days each week.

In response to a question from Insider about whether Hölzle opposed remote work for Google employees who didn’t have a certain seniority level or wouldn’t be assigned to an office, the Google spokesperson said, "All employees are eligible to apply for either remote status or to work in another city."

The spokesperson added: "We expect our hybrid model to evolve over time given the wide scope of the business and needs at the team and function level."

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