Microsoft is giving employees the option to work remotely through October after revising its WFH policy this week.
“On May 4th we confirmed that when restrictions lift, working from home will remain optional through October unless employees are in an essential role or local authorities mandate otherwise,” the company said in a statement shared with GeekWire.
In early March, the tech giant was one of the first Seattle-area companies to tell employees that they could work remotely due to the coronavirus outbreak. Microsoft employs nearly 54,000 people in the Seattle region, most of them at its headquarters in Redmond, Wash., in addition to thousands more at offices across the world.
Fellow Seattle tech giant Amazon last week gave employees similar guidance, offering workers the option to do their jobs from home until at least early October, extending its remote work guidance by several months.
Seattle-based Zillow Group told its employees that they can work from home until at least the end of 2020.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee last week extended the state’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order for another month, through May 31.
The WFH policies reflect rapidly-shifting office culture expectations for tech companies as the COVID-19 pandemic changes how we work and live. The moves provide a potential bellwether for other companies in the larger discussion about when and how to bring teams back to the office.
Kate Lister, president of Global Workplace Analytics, said the coronavirus crisis will be a “tipping point” for WFH programs. She expects that 25-to-30 million U.S. employees will regularly work from home within the next two years — up from 5 million who do so half-time or more now.
“From the employee side, the genie is out of the bottle,”?Lister said in a statement last month. “Having tasted the experience, most will not want to give it up.”
For a sense of what a return to the workplace could look like in developed countries, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates last month pointed to Microsoft’s 6,200-person operation in China.
“So far about half are now coming into work,”?he writes in a blog post about life after the lockdown. “They are continuing to provide support to employees who want to work at home. They insist people with symptoms stay home. They require masks and provide hand sanitizer and do more intensive cleaning. Even at work, they apply distancing rules and only allow travel for exceptional reasons.”
Speaking on a Skift webinar in March, Eric Bailey, Microsoft’s global director of travel, said he expects a fundamental shift in how companies decide to travel, in part due to the rapid adoption of video conferencing apps and other software amid social distancing orders.
“It doesn’t mean that people stop traveling, necessarily, but it does mean that they they change the way that they travel,” Bailey said. “They don’t necessarily need to be face to face for a lot of things.”
He added: “I don’t think it’s going to be about the dollars — it’s about the time.”
Microsoft last week?reported $35 billion in quarterly revenue, an increase of 15% from a year ago, as increased demand for its productivity, gaming and cloud technologies overcame the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on its Windows PC and advertising businesses.