Google allowed employees in New York City and other East Coast locales to work from home to avoid dangerous smoke from Canadian wildfires – even as the tech giant warned of a fresh crackdown on workers who ignore its office attendance requirement.
Local New York office leaders told employees on Wednesday that air quality had “unhealthy” levels, according to data from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, which is responsible for the Air Quality Health Advisories currently in effect for much of the state.
“We are advising Googlers to work from home if possible, and limit their exposure to outdoor air,” the memo said. Google also closed off outdoor terraces at its New York offices.
A Google spokesperson confirmed the contents of the memo, which CNBC was first to report.
Local office leaders will closely monitor local air conditions and release additional updates as necessary, the spokesperson added.
The memo asked employees to remain indoors and “avoid vigorous physical activity” given the debilitating conditions.
For employees who are working on site, the company said its affected offices have filtration systems that “maintain a high quality of air inside our offices even in these circumstances.”
The wildfire memo went out on the same day as a companywide notice from Google HR boss Fiona Cicconi, who warned employees that an onsite attendance policy will be strictly enforced, with poor adherence potentially impacting individual performance reviews, according to a separate CNBC report.
Everything you need to know about the NYC wildfire smoke
New York City’s air has been heavily polluted by thick smoke from Canadian wildfires burning hundreds of miles away.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams warned residents to stay inside to avoid exposure.
The haze wafting in from Quebec have posed a threat “even to healthy adults.”
New York’s air quality has become some of the worst in the world as the ominous orange smog from wildfires near Quebec, British Columbia and Nova Scotia continue to settle over the region, according to IQair.
The air quality is expected to remain hazardous through the weekend.
Under normal conditions, most Google employees are required to work on site at least three days per week.
Cicconi said Google would track attendance through office badge swipes and warned that teams would begin sending out reminders to employees “who are consistently absent from the office.”
Cicconi reportedly added that permanent remote work would only be approved “by exception only” going forward – and urged fully remote workers already at the company to consider coming into the office.
Google’s crackdown came even as other tech companies, including Amazon, face pushback from their workers over stricter return-to-office mandates.
The wildfire memo went out to Google employees located at offices in the Detroit metro area; the Washington DC metro area; Reston, Virginia; New York City, Pittsburgh and Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina in the US, as well as Ontario cities of Toronto and Waterloo in Canada.
It couldn’t immediately be learned how long Google work from home advisory for offices affected by wildfires would remain in effect.
Air Quality Health Advisories are still in effect for the New York City metro area, according to the New York State Dept. of Environmental Conservation.
New York skies turned a deep shade of orange on Wednesday as smoke spread throughout the region.
Visibility grew so bad that local airports were forced to temporarily halt flights and the Yankees called off their game at Yankee Stadium.
Mayor Eric Adams has urged city residents to remain indoors with windows closed unless absolutely necessary.
New York City had an air quality index of 183 as of Thursday morning, which ranked the worst of any major city in the world.
Still, air quality had improved compared to Wednesday, when the air quality index (AQI) for New York City reached a record-high of 405 out of 500, according to an analysis of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data by FOX Weather.
Any reading above 100 is considered unhealthy, while readings above 300 are considered hazardous.