Microsoft has announced that it is planning to reopen its headquarters in Washington state later this month. After a long hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Seattle and Redmond campuses will begin opening up. The software giant, however, notes that this will be a gradual opening with only a limited number of employees allowed in. The rest are encouraged to continue working from home.
According to Kurt DelBene, Microsoft’s head of corporate strategy, the company’s 21 worksites around the world have gradually opened to employees so far. Current estimates show that at least 20% of the total Microsoft global workforce is working on site. The number is expected to rise even further as the tech giant continues its phased reopening.
The company also notes that its approach is in line with local authority COVID-19 guidelines and if those guidelines change during the reopening, Microsoft will also adjust accordingly. Nonetheless, Microsoft insists that the choice to work in its physical campuses is optional. Employees can still decide to continue working from home if they choose to do so.
The company also notes that it is closely watching the progress against the pandemic. The gradual reopening is part of a six-stage plan that Microsoft released last year to guide it in its response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. The first stage, as highlighted by the tech giant at the time, would be to completely close down all its campuses. This would then be followed by a mandatory work from home guideline for all employees.
The third stage would also strongly encourage employees to work from home as the company monitors the pandemic and its spread. Microsoft noted that the fourth stage would be a soft open and this would be conditional on whether the virus was under control or not.
Once the company gets the green light from local authorities, it would proceed to the 50th stage, a restricted opening like the one we are seeing right now. Microsoft intended to do this while still monitoring the status of the pandemic. The company would only fully open its campus when it was clear that the risk of infections was significantly low.
So far, the Windows giant is at stage 5 of its plan. It seems like the US is doing a pretty good job right now of dealing with COVID. As vaccines roll out and the rate of infections drops, Microsoft will likely be moving to the final stage of fully reopening its campuses in no time.
Nonetheless, Microsoft is still hoping to encourage a hybrid workplace culture in the future regardless of the status of the COVID pandemic. The company is hoping to have a mix of employees who work from home and on-site. An internal survey on employees working for the tech giant found that 73% of them would prefer to continue working from home even after the pandemic is under control.