Microsoft has reportedly told its employees that they will have the option of working from home permanently with manager’s approval. The move follows the US tech giant’s rivals Facebook and Twitter, which have also said remote work would be a permanent option.
Many companies are reconsidering how much office space they need, expecting a long-term increase in remote staff.
The Verge, an American technology news website, said most Microsoft employees are still at home as the health crisis drags on, and the company doesn’t expect to reopen its US offices until January of next year at the earliest.
Microsoft said some roles will continue to require an in-person presence, such as those needing access to hardware. But many staff will also be able to work from home part-time, without needing formal approval from their managers.
“Our goal is to evolve the way we work over time with intention — guided by employee input, data, and our commitment to support individual work styles and business needs while living our culture,” a Microsoft spokesperson said of the new guidance.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged all of us to think, live and work in new ways,” Microsoft’s Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan said in a note to employees.
“We will offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual work styles, while balancing business needs and ensuring we live our culture.”
A report said employees will need approval from their managers to work remotely on a permanent basis, but can spend less than 50 per cent of their week outside the office without approval.
Some employees won’t be eligible for remote-work arrangements, such as those who work in Microsoft’s labs or train other employees.
In its memo, the company co-founded by Bill Gates, said it is possible for its workers to relocate across the United States or perhaps overseas, The Verge reported.
Those that relocate may see their salaries change depending on where they go, and while the company will cover expenses for employees’ home offices, it won’t cover relocation expenses.
As of the end of June, Microsoft employed 163,000 people, 96,000 of them in the US, according to a securities filing.
Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has already said half of the social network’s staff could be permanently working remotely within five to 10 years.
Many employers hailed the shift initially as being surprisingly productive. But as the months have passed, some of the drawbacks have emerged.
For example, at a conference this month, Microsoft’s own chief executive Satya Nadella said the lack of division between private life and work life meant “it sometimes feels like you are sleeping at work”.
Analysts say such a shift could have widespread implications, reducing demand for office and residential properties in expensive city centres. Rents in New York and San Francisco have already dropped, reports said.