Microsoft moves to ‘hybrid workplace’ model; will allow some employees to work from home permanently

After almost 8 months of remote work, companies in the Seattle area are beginning to unfold their blueprints of how and when employees will return to physical office spaces.

Redmond-based Microsoft announced Friday they will give employees the option to work from home permanently as the company shifts to a “hybrid workplace” model during and after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Verge reported that the software company will allow employee to work from home freely for less than 50% of their working week unless they get manager approval to work from home full time.

If they do wish to permanently telecommute, they will give up their assigned desks but still have “touchdown” spots in the office. The company has said that offices will not reopen until Jan. 2021 at the earliest.

“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 a note to employees. “We will offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual workstyles, while balancing business needs, and ensuring we live our culture.”

Employees who opt for permanent remote work may relocate, but compensation and benefits may change. Additionally, the company will cover home office expenses.

The change to a more flexible environment is being considered by other companies as well. Last week, Starbucks announced that it will be extending its work-from-home policy for employees at their Sodo headquarters until Oct. 2021.

The company is using the interim time to redesign the workspace and is considering a “hoteling” feature that will allow employees to rent desks and meeting rooms on days they have to be present in the office.

“This is more than a health and safety measure, but an intentional decision to help you manage your individual needs,” CEO Kevin Johnson said in an email to corporate employees. “Not only will the space be design-forward, but it will be technology-forward and functional.”

Other companies with headquarters in Puget Sound have opted for a less centralized headquarters in favor of smaller, satellite offices. Kent-based REI sold their newly-built Bellevue headquarters in August in favor of this strategy.


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