Google’s Waze lays off 5% of global workforce in response to COVID-19

The novel coronavirus’ impact on transport has resulted in the axe of employees.

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Waze has warned employees of upcoming cuts to its global workforce expected to impact 5% of employees. 

Acquired by Google in 2013, Waze is a map, traffic, and navigation app dependent on crowdsourced information to provide real-time transport updates. The app caters to approximately 155 million users.

In response to COVID-19, the company is working with volunteers and government bodies to add quarantine-related road closures, testing centers, and food distribution centers to local maps. 

However, this hasn't helped employees on the ground, who have now been made aware of impending cuts to the workforce, partly due to COVID-19. 

Waze's business model is based on transport. However, with lockdowns, restrictions on travel both locally and abroad, and a shift to working from home, fewer of us have been on the road. 

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According to a survey conducted by carinsurance.org in May, the majority of US citizens have been driving less due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, 71% of respondents said they are holding off buying or leasing a new vehicle. 

During the early surge of the pandemic, 27% of those surveyed said they had stopped driving altogether. 

In April, Waze said in a blog post that Waze users were traveling 60% fewer miles in comparison to two months prior. In some countries, such as Italy, travel nosedived by 90%. 

As a result, this has impacted Waze, with fewer users of the app jumping in, taking advantage of up-to-date traffic reports, and fewer people potentially contributing to the crowdsource data pool. Furthermore, the lack of consistent use means that the company's advertising revenue has taken a hit, alongside Waze's Carpool scheme. 

In a memo to employees, as reported by The Verge, CEO Noam Bardin said that 5% of the global team -- potentially 30 or so out of 555 members of staff -- will be let go, and some of the firm's offices across the Asia-Pacific and Latin America regions will be closed down. 

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"This [COVID-19] has forced us to rethink priorities and we've decided to focus our resources on product improvements for our users, accelerate our investments in technical infrastructure, and refocus our sales and marketing efforts on a small number of high-value countries," Bardin said. "These investments ensure the long-term success of Waze and that we exit this pandemic stronger than we entered it."

The executive said that in order to focus on engineering and innovation, staff would be cut from ad sales, partnership, and marketing departments. Local sales offices in the APAC and Latin America areas will be closed down and "increased investments" will be spent instead in Waze Local Starter, a self-service advertising platform.

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Bardin wrote in the memo that the reduction has been caused by "the constraints created by the pandemic," and said that Waze is working with Google to try and find alternative employment for impacted staff within its parent company. 

"These changes are happening due to a global pandemic, and none of this is your fault," Bardin added. "We have no doubt that you will bring your talents to a new team and help them become even better, as you've done at Waze."

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