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Google Doubles Down on the Office, Buying London Site for $1 Billion

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LONDON—Google plans to spend $1 billion buying office space it already uses in central London, saying it believes office work will remain vital for the tech giant.

The purchase of the site, called Central Saint Giles, near the British Museum, comes as the

Alphabet Inc.

GOOG -1.78%

unit is building a separate, massive new U.K. headquarters about a mile and a half away, next to London’s King’s Cross train station.

The purchase “represents our continued confidence in the office as a place for in-person collaboration and connection,” said

Ronan Harris,

Google’s vice president for the U.K. and Ireland, in a blog post on Friday. Google said it plans to renovate the office it just purchased to add outdoor covered working areas, as well as “team pods,” which it describes as flexible spaces that can be reconfigured for individual or collaborative work.

Like many companies, Google has adjusted its work-from-home policies throughout the pandemic. But it has also signaled repeatedly its expectation that offices will continue to be a central part of working for the company. Early last year, it said it would spend $7 billion expanding its footprint of offices and data centers across the U.S., including pouring $1 billion into its home state of California.

Google said it would wait until later this year to decide when its latest office-return plan would take effect.



Photo:

Jason Alden/Bloomberg News

Last year, Alphabet Chief Executive

Sundar Pichai

said Google would move to a hybrid workweek in which employees work from the office three days a week. “The future of work is flexibility,” he said at the time. It then required U.S. employees to return to the office on Jan. 10, but postponed those plans last month as the Omicron variant began spreading.

The company said it would wait until later this year to decide when its latest office-return plan would take effect. It encouraged employees meanwhile to voluntarily “continue coming in where conditions allow, to reconnect with colleagues in person and start regaining the muscle memory of being in the office more regularly.”

Google said it has more than 6,400 employees in the U.K., having added almost 700 last year. It will have capacity for 10,000 employees when the construction of its new London complexes is complete.

Plexiglass dividers and floor decals might not be permanent, but the pandemic will bring lasting change to offices. Experts from the architecture and real-estate industries share how they are getting back to work and what offices will look like in the future. Photo: Cesare Salerno for The Wall Street Journal

Write to Stu Woo at [email protected]

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