Microsoft: Most employees can work from home less than 50 percent of the time

Microsoft is advising its employees of new remote work guidelines in light of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

Microsoft officials this week set some new official guidelines for work-from-home for the company's 166,000 or so employees as of 2019. Most employees will be able to work from home part-time, meaning less than 50 percent. With manager approval, some will have the option to work from home full-time.

The new rules are the result of the ongoing COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. In early March, Microsoft began setting policies around which employees could and should work from home. In July, Microsoft officials said the company planned to reopen its offices partially in January 2021 at the earliest.

Then, as now, some employees are required to be onsite, depending on employees' roles.

Microsoft management began circulating the new work-from-home rules selectively earlier this week, according to my contacts. The Verge reported on October 9 that Microsoft's Chief People Office Kathleen Hogan also said employees could have the option of working from home full-time if their managers approve such a move. I asked Microsoft to verify the Hogan piece of the news about the possibility to work from home full-time; no word back so far. 

Update: The Verge has tweaked the wording of its story to reflect the same things I heard -- namely, this is not a blanket policy allowing employees to work remotely indefinitely. Microsoft gave me a statement, but it didn't answer what I asked. The corporate spokesperson's statement: 

"We shared guidelines internally this week to provide options for our employees to plan ahead for when we can return to the workplace safely. Our goal is to evolve the way we work over time with intention-guided by employee input, data, and our commitment to support individual workstyles and business needs while living our culture."

In addition to setting work-site policies, Microsoft officials also told employees their work hours, meaning the hours and days when employees work, in terms of start/end times and full/part time are now considered to be flexible for most roles.

In terms of geographic location of where users work (city and country), Microsoft is advising employees to talk with their managers and to consult the "Hybrid Workplace Flexibility Guide" regarding location strategy.

Microsoft earlier this year cancelled in-person first-party events until the end of its fiscal 2021, which is June 30, 2021. Events such as Build, Ignite and Inspire have been virtual-only this year.

Update No. 2: Microsoft has published Hogan's memo publicly.

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