Will Microsoft return-to-office strategy set an example?

Employees given 30 days to adjust routines, implement new preferences

Will Microsoft return-to-office strategy set an example?

Microsoft is going back to the workplace by fully opening its new campus in Silicon Valley on Feb. 28, along with other California sites. Meanwhile, it is moving workers in Washington to the sixth and final stage of its workplace model as it reopens in that state.

Employees will have 30 days to make adjustments to routines and adopt the new working preferences they’ve agreed upon with their managers.

“Reaching this stage allows us to fully open our facilities to employees, visitors and guests,” says Chris Capossela, executive vice president and chief marketing officer. “We’re pleased to be joining other area businesses welcoming back more employees in the coming weeks.”

High vaccination rates

The COVID-19 situation in the area and community vaccination rate are among the top factors Microsoft considered in determining if the worksite is ready to fully open, says Capossela.

He notes that as of Feb. 8, 83.8 per cent of eligible King County residents – where most of the Washington state employees live – have completed their vaccine series, and 91.6 per cent have received at least one dose.

“These high vaccination rates, along with declining hospitalizations and deaths in the state, are part of what enables us to move to this stage of our hybrid work journey. In addition, we ensure that established local testing solutions are in place and that we’re aligned to all government guidance for businesses like ours,” says Capossela.

In the U.S., as many states, and employers, are lifting mandates more and more each day, some are asking the question, is it time to lift all COVID-19 safety measures?

Microsoft previously shared its approach with employees in the spring of 2020, but more recent changes in the COVID situation affected those plans. “We’re excited to welcome our employees back to a modern workplace that fosters inclusion, collaboration and community,” says Capossela.

“As we navigate this new phase of work, we’ll continue to take a data-driven approach to decision making that follows the guidance of public health authorities. We’re maintaining a close watch on local health data in every area where Microsoft has a physical presence, and we’ll adjust our course if necessary.”

In September 2021, Google announced it was extending its global “voluntary return-to-office policy” through Jan. 10, 2022 to give workers flexibility and choice as they ramp back. Months later, the company said it would wait until 2022 to assess when U.S. offices can safely return to a “stable, long-term working environment,” according to a report.