With 1 sentence, Google’s CEO revealed the best reason to return to the office I’ve heard yet

Google’s CEO, Sundar Pichai, published a blog post this morning to highlight the release of the company’s financial impact report. The report describes things like the number of jobs Google has created, as well as the impact it has on small businesses through tools like Google Ads.

For example, Pichai says Google contributed $ 617 billion in economic activity to millions of U.S. businesses, nonprofits, creators, developers, and publishers last year. In addition, the Android app economy helped create nearly two million jobs last year and YouTube’s creative ecosystem supported 394,000 jobs in 2020. “

Such numbers can be difficult to understand. What does it mean to provide “economic activity”? How do you count it?

I’m not arguing that Google does not contribute to the success of small businesses – it is perhaps the most effective tool for reaching your customers that has ever been created. I’m just suggesting companies like to publish big numbers like this, even though it’s not always clear how they figured it out.

There is a figure in the report which, however, is very clear. Pichai says Google is spending $ 9.5 billion on offices and data centers this year.

It’s not only real money, but it’s a little weird too. With the current push for remote and hybrid work at big technology companies like Google, why should you invest so much money in buildings where you do not expect people to show up to work?

Pichai admitted so much in his blog post:

“It may seem counterintuitive to increase our investment in physical offices, even though we embrace more flexibility in how we work. Still, we believe that investing in our campuses is more important than ever and that it will provide better products, a greater quality of life for our employees and stronger communities. “

It turns out that there are two reasons. The first is obvious: If you want people to come to the office, give them a place they want to work in. It’s up to you to do the work in the office better than not to work in the office. As Pichai said, investing in the place where your team works improves their “quality of life.” To that end, Google says they are investing in both new and existing offices.

The second reason may be less obvious at first, but it turns out to be the best reason I’ve heard of returning to the office. “Google’s offices and data centers provide vital anchors to our communities and help us contribute to their economies,” Pichai wrote.

See, I fully agree with the idea that people should have the flexibility to work according to the needs of their position and their personal relationships. If anything, the last two years have shown that many of the tasks we thought were to be performed in an office building sitting in a cubicle just do not.

Millions of Americans have been productive while working externally, proving that it is not just a viable way of working, but in many cases preferred way of working. Just because managers want people back in the office, does not mean it is best for the employees or the company, for that matter.

That said, there are plenty of reasonable arguments for bringing people back together for at least part of their work week. Video conferencing that we can all confirm is simply not a substitute for actual physical human connections. Not only that – collaboration and communication happens differently when you are face to face without a webcam and a screen between you.

But Pichai points to another overlooked reason for returning to the office. The physical space your business occupies provides an “important anchor” for your community. It creates a connection that does not exist with a distributed team working in different locations.

When your employees come into the office, they also contribute to the communities in which they work. They take public transportation, stop for coffee, have lunch at restaurants or stop for a few errands before going home.

All of these things add value to the community and businesses around you. It may be harder to count, but that does not mean it is not genuine or important. In fact, it may be one of the best reasons I’ve heard of bringing people back together.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not Inc.coms.

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