Illinois COVID update: Google Chicago employees return to office after over 2 years away

As COVID in Illinois wanes, Metra is also seeing ridership increase
CHICAGO (WLS) -- It was all cupcakes and smiles Tuesday morning as Google's Chicago employees returned to the workplace after more than two years of the COVID pandemic.

"I've actually only been to the office one time before so it's a very different experience to see everyone here," Google software engineer Kevin Wynn said.

"It's fun to be able to meet the people I've been working (with) outside of Zoom; I guess we use Google chat," fellow software engineer Jon George said.

The tech giant's nearly 2,000 employees at its West Town office will now work a flex schedule -- three days in the office and two days remote.

RELATED: COVID Chicago: Many businesses pushing back return to work plans amid omicron surge

"We want work to be somewhere people chose to be," said Rob Biederman, Google director of government relations. "We have also realized people have missed the collaboration you get by being in-person, and that's why there's so much excitement here today."

Chicago's mayor was on-hand for the office's reopening, which officially began Monday.

"The Fulton Market District, for people who haven't been down here for two years, they are going to be amazed. Construction is booming. Office towers are going up," Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.

RELATED: Our Chicago: Returning to the office, the future of the workplace

More employers are having their workers return to the office.

Metra is seeing ridership numbers at about 30% of pre-pandemic levels.

And according to Andrew Challenger of Challenger, Gray and Christmas, it's a trend that will continue despite a large number of people still quitting jobs.

"In a recent poll that we conducted, 32% of companies said that they're feeling an actual decrease in productivity because of the extended work from home arrangements. So they're fighting to get people back in," Challenger said.
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