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Microsoft will put hybrid work into practice with HQ reopening

Employees will be given the choice to return to the office, to continue working remotely, or to do a mixture of both

Microsoft sign on a building

Microsoft is planning to slowly reopen its headquarters in Washington later this month as it prepares to embrace hybrid working. 

The company's Redmond headquarters have remained closed for over a year now, but the company has announced that the building will reopen on 29 March. 

“Currently, Microsoft work sites in 21 countries have been able to accommodate additional workers in our facilities – representing around 20% of our global employee population,” said Kurt DelBene, executive vice president at Microsoft. 

“On March 29, Microsoft will also start making this shift at our Redmond, Washington, headquarters and nearby campuses.”

Microsoft will also put its hybrid workplace into practice and employees will have the choice to return to Redmond work sites or nearby campuses, to continue working remotely, or to do a mixture of both.

“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,” wrote DelBene.

DelBene also outlined how Microsoft has developed a return-to-work site strategy to account for constantly changing public health conditions and government guidance to keep employees safe.

The outcome of this is the “Hybrid Workplace Dial” which contains six defined stages, instead of a specific timeline, that allows the company to quickly adjust its work sites depending on health conditions.

COVID Hybrid Workplace Microsoft

“The dial helps us assign a stage to each of our work sites depending on the current local health data and government guidance. The dial can go in both directions – moving a work site forward when local disease burden improves, and also dialing back when we observe declines in progress,” said DelBene.

Each stage of the dial is defined by a set of data-driven criteria, including trends in cases and deaths as well as government guidelines.

Furthermore, employees are encouraged to work remotely while their site remains in Stages 1-5 and “should not feel they need to return”. The shift on 29 March at the Redmond campus will represent a move on the dial from Stage 3 to 4.

“Additionally, we’ve pulled together a group of Microsoft researchers, engineers and real estate and facilities experts to prototype hybrid meeting spaces at our Redmond, Washington, and UK campuses,” DelBene added.

This 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.”

IT Pro contacted Microsoft UK to see if it had plans on reopening here, but it had nothing to add to what had already been announced.

At the start of February, Citrix said that UK employees wanted hybrid working models, despite a strong desire to meet in person again. The cloud giant believes remote working will play a “huge role” in post-pandemic life and will be the new normal.

Google, on the other hand, warned that its productivity and finances may take a hit due to the new “hybrid working” model brought about by the COVID pandemic. The tech giant is concerned that this will increase costs and impact its “corporate culture”.

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