New guidelines sent to Microsoft staff said working from home could become permanent for employees if their manager agreed
Microsoft told staff it would have the option to work from home permanently with the manager’s approval.
The move mimics rivals of US tech giant Facebook and Twitter, which have also said remote working will be a permanent option.
This follows a rapid change in office work brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.
Many companies are reconsidering the amount of office space they need, expecting a long-term increase in remote staff.
Microsoft has said some roles will continue to require in-person presence, such as those who require access to hardware, the company added. 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 overtime with intention – guided by employee feedback, data and our commitment to supporting individual work styles and business needs while living our culture, ”a Microsoft spokesperson said of the new guidelines, which she said would apply to UK staff as well.
In April, more than 46% of those employed worked from home, according to the Office of National Statistics.
It was comparable to the United States, where 42% of the workforce was remote in May, according to Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom, whose research focused on people aged 20. at 64, earning over $ 10,000 last year.
Even though this share fell to around 35% in August, it still marks a major change. Before the pandemic, only 2% of workers were away full-time, he said.
“What we are doing now is extremely unusual,” he said.
Many employers initially hailed this change as surprisingly productive. But over the months, some of the downsides appeared.
For example, at a conference this month, Microsoft’s own chief executive, Satya Nadella, said that the lack of a divide between private and professional life means “sometimes it feels like you’re sleeping in the home. job “.
As businesses look beyond the pandemic, Professor Bloom said many are considering policies that combine two days a week at home with three days of work in the office, which will remain important for meetings, strengthening corporate culture and loyalty and basic mental health.
“Radical extremes – so full-time in the office or full-time at home – are not ideal for most people,” said Professor Bloom.
But he said he didn’t expect the pre-pandemic office to return.
“Microsoft’s statement is fully consistent with everything I’ve heard,” he said. “There is a roughly uniform consensus now that the pandemic has permanently changed the way we work. ”
A Willis Towers Watson survey of U.S. employers in May found they expected 22% of staff to continue working from home after the pandemic, up from just 7% in 2019.
About 55% of employers said they expected staff to work from home at least one day a week after concerns about the virus passed, according to a PWC survey. And over 80% of employees said they support the idea.
Analysts say such a change could have far-reaching implications, reducing the demand for office and residential properties in expensive downtown areas. Rents in New York and San Francisco have already gone down.
Prof Bloom said workplace changes could help alleviate accessibility issues, but would not mean the end of city centers.
New York and San Francisco accessibility levels can return to their 2005 levels,” he said. “It is clearly not the case that they are going to empty themselves.