The pandemic has forced offices across the world to shut down, and now it is forcing companies to rethink the whole future of offices.
At the forefront of new ways of thinking are American high tech companies.
Microsoft will be moving to permanent working from home for some of its workforce, the company announced on Friday.
The software giant’s move to more flexible working comes months after the company notified employees that its US offices will not reopen until January 2021 at the earliest.
Whenever that happens, Microsoft will allow employees to work at home for up to half of their working week, or permanently with company approval.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has challenged all of us to think, live, and work in new ways,” says Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s chief people officer, in an Oct 9 note to employees. “We will offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual workstyles, while balancing business needs.”
Employees who opt for permanent remote work will give up their assigned office space, but still be able to use what Microsoft calls “touchdown space” in its offices when necessary.
Microsoft says there are a few roles that will still require a physical presence at the company’s facilities, for example positions that require access to hardware labs, data centres, and hands-on training.
People whose roles do not require them to ever be on site will be allowed to relocate within the US, or even internationally.
As Hogan says of the 2020 experience, “We have been working in ways we never thought possible, including learning to connect with small or large teams while presenting to a screen, and taking care of family and friends while being in the next room on calls.”
Microsoft isn’t alone in allowing employees to permanently work remotely.
Facebook is shifting tens of thousands of jobs to remote work, and up to half of its employees could work from home within five to 10 years.
Some companies, like Twitter and Slack, have already said employees need never return to the office.