Momentum toward inviting Seattle-area employees back to the office after more than a year of remote working due to the COVID-19 pandemic is building with Microsoft’s recent decision to allow its 57,000 workers the option to return to campus on March 29.
While Microsoft has been admitting a small number of employees back into the office for months, the Redmond-based tech company is the first major Seattle-area employer to signal a general return to in-office working, according to the Seattle Times. At the start of the pandemic, Microsoft was one of the first companies in the Puget Sound region to embrace remote working, which spurred similar policies from other local businesses.
Microsoft executive vice president Kurt DelBene outlined the return-to-the-office options in a March 22 blog post titled “The philosophy and practice of our hybrid workplace.”
Other tech companies with a large Seattle-area workforce are planning similar moves in the months ahead. Both Facebook and Amazon, which have allowed some workers to return to the office on a case-by-case basis, are planning a more general opening in early July, while Google has not shown plans to follow suit until at least September, according to the Seattle Times.
In the interim, Microsoft’s move to bring workers back into the office could signal to other employers that it’s safe to do the same, Joe Fain, director of the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce, told the Seattle Times.
Seattle-based real estate tech firm Zillow appears to be an exception, allowing its national workforce of about 5,400 employees the option to work remotely on a permanent basis.
The transition back to the office is something akin to a “hybrid workplace,” according to a Microsoft report released alongside its March 22 blog post. The report, which was based on feedback from more than 30,000 employees worldwide, indicated that 65% are eager to return to in-person settings, although 70% of workers want to keep the option to work remotely. Microsoft created a Hybrid Workplace Dial, composed of six stages, to signal to workers whether it is safe to return to the office or continue working at home. Microsoft is currently in “Stage 4: Soft Open.”
Despite having the option to return to the office, Microsoft and other big tech companies in the Seattle-area don’t expect a large-scale return until the majority of employees are vaccinated, according to the Seattle Times. “Even then, many will continue to give employees more flexibility about working from home,” the Times notes.
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