Microsoft has outlined some its return-to-work plans, and this includes re-opening the Xbox company’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington beginning on March 29.
Microsoft employees worldwide have been working from home since March 2020, with the exception of “essential” on-site workers. However, there are now “several” places around the world where Microsoft has offices that have met or exceeded government requirements to return to in-person work. In fact, Microsoft has work sites in 21 countries that can start going back into the office in compliance with the current rules. This is about 20 percent of Microsoft’s total workforce.
And on March 29, Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington–along with nearby campuses–will open again for in-person working.
Executive vice president Kurt DelBene said in a statement that, during the pandemic, Microsoft has spent time considering how best to “grow and evolve” the hybrid workplace.
“As some employees return to our global work sites and others prefer or need to work remotely, we are finding additional ways of putting our hybrid workplace into practice,” DelBene said. “At each of our global work sites, the hybrid workplace model strikes a balance, providing limited additional services on campus for those who choose to return, while supporting those who need to work remotely or feel more comfortable doing so. Our goal is to give employees further flexibility, allowing people to work where they feel most productive and comfortable, while also encouraging employees to work from home as the virus and related variants remain concerning.”
For Microsoft HQ in Redmond, Microsoft said employees can come back to the office or continue working remotely, or they can do both.
“Although we cannot predict everything the coming months have in store, we are prepared to face them with a growth mindset–learning, reevaluating, and updating our response as needed,” DelBene said.
Microsoft developed what it calls a “Hybrid Workplace Dial” that has six defined stages related to the pandemic. Microsoft said it used this model instead of specific timelines because the pandemic, its effects, and government rules are changing so rapidly.
You can see the dial below. Currently, Microsoft is in Stage 3, but this is expected to shift to Stage 4 on March 29 when employees are encouraged to work remotely but can return to the office if prefer.
For any office in Stage 1-5, Microsoft is enacting a variety of health and safety measures such as social distancing, face coverings, “extensive” cleaning, and daily health checks.
“Whether employees are working from home, at the workplace or utilizing many of the outdoor collaboration spaces we have at our work sites, our approach seeks to create a sense of belonging and helps teams stay connected however they choose to work,” DelBene said.
What’s more, Microsoft is working with researchers, engineerings, and experts in real estate and facilities to design “hybrid meeting spaces” for the company’s HQ and UK campuses. “The group is investigating different meeting configurations and technologies like multiple screens, cameras, and mixed reality scenarios to understand the most effective, inclusive set-up for hybrid work,” DelBene said.