Microsoft Gives Staff Permanent Remote Work Option

Microsoft has given staff the option of working from home permanently, following in the footsteps of rivals Facebook and Twitter, which have also offered a permanent remote-working option.

Microsoft said some positions would continue to require staff to be present in person, such as those requiring access to hardware labs, data centres or in-person training.

But in new workplace guidance issued to employees on Friday, the company said increased flexibility would now be considered the norm.

Employees are to be allowed to work from home for less than 50 percent of their working week without manager approval, for instance, while managers will be able to approve permanent remote work.

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Those who opt to work remotely on a permanent basis will give up their assigned office space, but would still have the option of using temporary spaces on Microsoft’s premises when they do appear in person.

“Moving forward, it is our goal to offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual workstyles, while balancing business needs and ensuring we live our culture,” said Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s chief people officer, in a blog post.

In a note to employees she said the pandemic had “challenged all of us to think, live, and work in new ways”.

Microsoft said staff will be allowed to relocate within the country where they work with approval, or may seek to relocate internationally if remote working is viable from abroad in their role.

However, compensation and benefits will change according to where staff decide to live, Microsoft said, mirroring Facebook’s policy on permanent remote working.

Broader shift

Microsoft is to cover home office expenses for those working remotely, but employees will need to cover their own relocation costs if they move away from Microsoft’s offices, the guidance said.

Flexible working hours are now also considered the norm, and are available without approval, while employees can request part-time hours.

Microsoft began allowing staff to work from home in March due to the pandemic, before making remote work mandatory.

The company has notified staff that its offices won’t reopen until January 2021 at the earliest.

As of April, more than 46 percent of those employed in the UK were doing some work from home, according to the Office of National Statistics.

In the US, 42 percent of the workforce was remote in May, dropping to 35 percent in August, according to a study by Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom covering people aged 20 to 64 who earned more than $10,000 (£7,700) last year.

Before the pandemic only 2 percent of workers were remote full-time, according to Bloom.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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