Across the board, companies have had to pivot and quickly adapt to remote and flexible work options in the wake of the pandemic. Among the Eastside’s many tech companies, Microsoft was one of the first to switch to remote work for most of its employees, leveraging its unique advantages as a tech company to make the shift in the first place.
Now, as some companies are considering when to return to the office, Microsoft has announced that remote and flexible work options will continue to be available to its employees — forever.
In a recent memo, Microsoft provided guidelines for employees to work remotely up to half-time without prior approval. Managers also have tools to approve fully remote work for employees at their discretion. Employees who choose to partake in this will give up their permanent workspace in the office, but they will have access to communal “touchdown spaces” if they need to come to the office.
With this in mind, Microsoft employees have the option to move away from the area — and even across the country — if they so choose, although in doing so their compensation will be subject to the company’s geopay scale and they will be required to cover their own moving expenses.
So what does this mean for the future of Microsoft’s Redmond campus?
To begin with, while most of Microsoft’s 54,000 Washington state employees had operated out of the Redmond campus, there are still certain roles that the company says will require full-time, onsite work from employees. Additionally, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has expressed that working remotely all the time can put a drain on employees and cause burnout, emphasizing the importance of working from the office at least occasionally.
To underscore this, Microsoft is continuing with a pre-planned renovation of its campus that has been underway since 2017. The renovation will add 2.5 million square feet of workspace to its sprawling 520-acre Redmond campus, and isn’t slated to be complete until 2023.
Other companies are following the same suit, as Bellevue-based Skanska is continuing with a project to build a 25-story office tower in downtown Bellevue. Seattle architecture firm ZGF, which counts Microsoft as a client, has also expressed that many of its customers are moving forward with projects for traditional workspaces. It’s a prudent approach, and one that points toward a future beyond the pandemic.