Microsoft has made headlines after making offers to allow staff to work remotely – permanently – as the technology giant looks to a more flexible working arrangement moving into the future.
According to a blog post on Microsoft’s website, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan has said that Microsoft is embracing a flexible workplace culture as it offers staff the ability to work remotely permanently.
Hogan said that depending on the role, members of the Microsoft workplace will be able to take the remote work option, unless they are required to work hands-on with hardware. The company says that employees will be able to work remotely without formal approval from their managers on a part-time basis, with executive sign-off required for full-time work from home arrangements.
“Moving forward,” Hogan explained, “we have provided guidance to employees to make informed decisions around scenarios that could include changes to their work site, work location, and/or work hours once offices are open without any COVID-19 restrictions.”
“We recognise that some employees are required to be onsite for some roles… however, for most roles, we view working from home part of the time (less than 50%) as now standard, assuming manager and team alignment,” she says.
Microsoft’s announcement mirrors that of fellow technology companies Facebook and Twitter who have previously said that they don’t expect their workforces to return to the office for the remainder of 2020.
Hogan writes that “the pandemic has raised questions about what our employees can expect in the future, so we provided some guidance this week to employees on our thinking about work flexibility.”
A spokesperson for Microsoft had added that “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.”
It comes at a time that the Office of National Statistics in the U.K. says that in April, 46% of organisations have deployed a significant amount of remote work practices. Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor with Stanford University says that the number stood at 42% of the workforce in May, and eventually dropped to 35% in August.
Bloom says, however, that in spite of the drop, this is significantly higher than the reported 2% of the workforce working remotely on a full-time basis before the pandemic.
“What we’re doing now is extremely unusual,” Bloom told the BBC. “The radicals extremes – full time in the office or full-time at home – are not ideal for most people,” he said.
“The Microsoft statement is completely in line with everything I’ve been hearing… there’s pretty much uniform consensus now that the pandemic has permanently shifted the way we work,” Bloom added. He expects that the move away from traditional means of operating will make certain cities more affordable, but said it was unlikely that they would mean the end of busy city centres.
“The affordability levels of New York and San Francisco may go back to where they were in 2005… it’s clearly not the case they’re going to empty out,” he said.
Data from Pricewaterhouse Coopers found that 55% of employers responded that they expected members of their staff to work remotely one day per week, with 80% of employees saying they were in support of the idea.