Back in March, when Microsoft sent the vast majority of their workforce to work from home, commuter traffic in cities like Bellevue and Seattle became eerily light. Only a small percent of the tech giant’s workforce has come back to the office since then, and now Microsoft has announced a new plan which will keep their offices at a lowered capacity – for good.
Calling it a “hybrid workplace,” Microsoft has set in place guidance giving employees the option to choose a permanent part-time remote work option, and for managers to approve that to be full time.
Any employee can choose to work from home up to 50 percent of their working week, retaining their assigned office space in a Microsoft facility when they reopen (currently projected for January 2021). If they are approved for full-time remote work, which is at the discretion of individual managers, they give up their office space but still have the option to use ‘touchdown space’ in their nearest Microsoft office when needed, as well as have Microsoft’s support in upgrading their home office.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged all of us to think, live, and work in new ways,” said Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s chief people officer, in an internal memo to employees. “We will offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual workstyles, while balancing business needs, and ensuring we live our culture.”
Roles which require access to physical resources such as hardware labs and data centers, of course, can’t be fully transitioned to remote work, but most work done for Microsoft is data work, programming, and program testing, all of which can be done on any appropriate terminal.
Employees who transition to full-time remote work will be able to relocate as they like, which could, hopefully, help to decentralize tech jobs and ultimately drive down home prices in places. Microsoft’s presence and commuter policies are a large part of why Seattle is currently one of the most expensive cities to live in in the United States.
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