Microsoft will open up its US headquarters to more employees by the end of the month as it embraces a hybrid workplace

Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Washington.
Microsoft’s headquarters in Redmond, Washington.

  • Microsoft will open up its US headquarters to more employees beginning on March 29.
  • Employees will be able to return to the office some or all the time, or continue working remotely.
  • Microsoft is one of several major tech companies considering a hybrid schedule for employees.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Microsoft will open up its US headquarters to more employees by the end of this month, the company announced Monday.

Beginning March 29, Microsoft employees who typically work at the company’s Redmond, Washington, headquarters or nearby offices will have the option to return to those campuses some or all of the time. Employees will also be allowed to continue working remotely if they wish, Microsoft said in a blog post announcing the update.

“We’ve been closely monitoring local health data for months and have determined that the campus can safely accommodate more employees on-site while staying aligned to Washington state capacity limits,” Kurt DelBene, Microsoft’s head of corporate strategy, wrote.

Microsoft offices in 21 countries around the world have also added additional workers, with about 20% of its global workforce working at an office, according to the blog post.

“Our goal is to give employees further flexibility, allowing people to work where they feel most productive and comfortable, while also encouraging employees to work from home as the virus and related variants remain concerning,” DelBene wrote.

Microsoft said in October that it would extend its work-from-home policy until July 6, 2021 “at the earliest.” The company also announced that month that its policy going forward will allow most employees to work remotely at least half of the time – employees who wish to work remotely full time or relocate may do so with manager approval.

According to a survey Microsoft conducted among those who have already returned to the office, it seems many employees currently prefer some sort of hybrid work schedule: About half of those who have gone back to the office are spending 25% of their time there, DelBene wrote in the blog post.

Read more: Internal documents show how Microsoft’s flexible work-from-home plan will work, including getting approval from a manager to work remotely over 50% of the time or relocate

Microsoft joins many major tech companies in planning for a hybrid workforce. Salesforce announced last month that it will provide employees three new ways to work going forward. Most employees will adopt a “flex” schedule where they’ll report to the office up to three days each week for tasks that are more challenging to do over video calls, like team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations.

Andy Jassy, the current CEO of Amazon Web Services who will take over as Amazon’s chief executive in the third quarter of this year, told CNBC in December that he predicts most people will adopt a hybrid work model. Jassy said he expects the future of work to be “hot offices” where employees decide when to come in and then reserve a desk.

Google appears likely to take some sort of hybrid approach as well: CEO Sundar Pichai said previously that he doesn’t think “the future is just 100% remote.”

“We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having that sense of community, is super important for whenever you have to solve hard problems, you have to create something new,” he said.

Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, said last year that he believes most employees still want a desk at a physical office versus working from home on a permanent basis.

“In the Seattle region, where we have sent a lot of people home,” Nadella said, “we’re realizing people would rather have workspace at work once the COVID-19 crisis goes away.”

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Salesforce reportedly scrapped plans for additional office space in San Francisco following its decision that most employees will only come into the office a few days per week

Salesforce tower
  • Salesforce is said to be canceling a lease for new office space in San Francisco.
  • Salesforce had inked a deal in 2018 for 325,000 square feet in a new building near Salesforce Tower.
  • The company said last month that most employees will work in the office one to three days a week.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Salesforce has reportedly dropped plans to lease 325,000 square feet of office space in San Francisco.

The cloud computing giant, which is headquartered in the tallest tower in San Francisco and is the city’s largest employer, had previously signed a deal in 2018 for additional office space in the new Transbay Tower development, an unbuilt tower about a block away.

The company planned to house 1,500 workers at the new tower, a portion of the 10,000 employees it has spread throughout its urban campus.

But according to the San Francisco Business Times’ Laura Waxmann and San Francisco Chronicle’s Roland Li, the lease is “is no longer in hand.”

A spokesperson for Salesforce did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read more: Salesforce’s AI ethics chief shares 3 ways to use tech when planning a safe return to the office

The decision follows Salesforce’s announcement last month that it would adopt three new ways of working going forward. The new guidelines, which Salesforce is calling “Work From Anywhere,” offer employees options for how they’ll work in the future: flex, fully remote, and office-based.

Salesforce said most of its employees worldwide would have a flex schedule, which means they’ll report to the office between one and three days each week for tasks that are more challenging to do over video calls, such as team collaboration, customer meetings, and presentations.

The company has shared few details about what this will mean for its physical office spaces – in a blog post announcing the change, Brent Hyder, the president and chief people office of Salesforce, shared only that the offices would be redesigned as “community hubs” with collaboration and breakout spaces instead of rows of desks.

Salesforce’s decision follows two other major San Francisco-based tech companies scaling back their physical office space. In August, Pinterest scrapped plans to build a massive, 490,000-square-foot-office in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood, paying a $89.5 million fee to cancel the project. And in September, Twitter said it would sublease more than 100,000 square feet of space at its San Francisco headquarters after telling employees they could work from home forever.

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Zillow’s CEO is warning that the future of work could create a ‘two-class system’ where those who come into the office are viewed as better employees

Empty office coronavirus
  • Zillow CEO Rich Barton discussed the future of work during the company’s Q4 earnings call.
  • A hybrid model could create a “two-class system” that negatively impacts remote workers, he said.
  • Others have echoed his concerns. GitLab’s CEO called a hybrid model “the worst of both worlds.”
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Throughout the pandemic, the buzzy phrase in corporate America has been “hybrid model” – as in, a new way of working that involves both remote work and coming into a physical office a few days per week or month. 

And while that model seems like an elegant solution for life post-coronavirus, there may be a hidden downside for employees, Zillow CEO Rich Barton warned.

During the online real estate company’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Wednesday, Barton discussed how Zillow managed the shift to remote work throughout 2020 and what he’s expecting for the future. While Zillow has been successful operating as a “cloud-headquartered company,”the company does plan to have some employees return to its offices, and that can present challenges, Barton said. 

“We must ensure a level playing field for all team members, regardless of their physical location,” Barton said. “There cannot be a two-class system – those in the room being first-class and those on the phone being second-class.”

What Barton is alluding to is that idea that employees who choose to report to the office either some of the time or full-time could be viewed as more dedicated and more engaged than those who choose remote work. Over time, managers may begin to view the employees they can see working in person as more productive than those who they only see over video chat. 

Other chief executives agree. Sid Sijbrandij, CEO of code-collaboration firm GitLab, described a hybrid model as “the worst of both worlds” in a piece for Wired last summer. Sijbrandij warned that remote employees won’t feel included and will have a more challenging time communicating than their peers who report to the office. 

Over time, employees at companies who choose the hybrid model will feel a shift from “remote-first” to “remote-allowed,” he said, which creates a world where “remote employees are not penalized for working outside the office, but are also not proactively integrated into the fabric of the company.”

Sijbrandij described the old, pre-COVID model of working as being one that rewards attendance rather than output and that many companies will be unable to let that go. 

His solution? An entirely remote workforce. GitLab, a $2.75 billion startup, has been remote-only since it launched in 2011. It currently has about 1,280 employees in 66 countries around the world.

Read more: How to get a job at $2.75 billion code-collaboration startup GitLab, despite a nontraditional hiring process where it doesn’t accept applications for specific roles

An evolution of the office 

Google headquarters

Zillow isn’t the only tech-driven company considering a hybrid model of work. Google CEO Sundar Pichai has said he expects Google to adopt a hybrid approach, but was clear that the future definitely includes some in-office work. 

“We firmly believe that in-person, being together, having that sense of community, is super important for whenever you have to solve hard problems, you have to create something new,” he said during a video interview for Time 100 in September. “So we don’t see that changing, so we don’t think the future is just 100% remote or something.”

Read more: Google is ‘reimagining’ work for the post-pandemic era, but losing its famously lavish office perks could pose a big challenge to its culture

Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, who will take over as Amazon’s chief executive in the third quarter of this year, told CNBC in December that he predicts most people will adopt a hybrid work model and that he expects the future of work to be “hot offices.” 

“My suspicion is that a lot of these office buildings will start to evolve from being optimized for individual offices or cube space to being hot offices where you decide which day you’re going to come in and then you reserve a desk,” Jassy said

Travel giant Trivago and cloud computing firm VMware have also said they’re adopting a hybrid model of working going forward.  

Freeing us from the old rhythms

Work from home

For Zillow, moving to any kind of remote work wasn’t initially a natural transition. 

The company has historically been anti-remote work. Zillow’s Chief People Office, Dan Spaulding, told CNN’s Kathryn Vasel last August that prior to the pandemic, the company viewed its growth and company culture as being defined by collaborating in-person. 

“I think there was a belief, that wasn’t just isolated to us, that if people weren’t in the office that they were doing something else, and maybe that something else was not being focused on their role,” he said. 

The pandemic, he said, has been able to “free us from some of those old rhythms.” 

Zillow announced last July that it would allow roughly 90% of its workforce the option to work from home at least part-time on an ongoing basis. Spaulding told CNN that the company expects some people will come in a few days each month, while others will come in three or four days per week. 

Zillow recognizes that “there is a balance between where people can be most effective and that balance is unique for all of us,” he said. Going forward, Zillow will rely on its physical offices as a space for employees to come work who may not be able to get much done at home, as well as a collaboration space for teams. 

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