Microsoft pushes back return-to-work target date from January to July 2021

Microsoft's newest COVID-19 coronavirus re-opening plan designates July 6, 2021, as the earliest date when U.S. employees will be returning en masse to its corporate offices.

At the end of July this year, Microsoft officials told employees they expected the earliest possible re-opening date for its U.S. offices to be January 2021. Unsurprisingly, that date has been pushed back as of this week. 

Microsoft's new plan is to officially re-open its U.S. offices in July 2021. Like many companies, Microsoft began advising employees to work from home in March this year due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

According to an October 21 internal email, Microsoft's Senior Leadership Team has decided to adjust the earliest date the U.S. worksites will likely be in "Stage 6" to July 6, 2021. That doesn't mean some employees can't or won't be able to return to working from the office earlier than that. In fact, a number of Microsoft employees already are working, at least part time, from corporate offices in the U.S. Dates for returning to work for those outside the U.S. are up to country leaders.

"Returning to the worksite remains optional until we get to Stage 6. This stage represents a time when COVID-19 is no longer a significant burden on a country/region and most health and safety restrictions at our worksites are removed," according to Microsoft's Kurt Delbene, Executive Vice President, Corporate Strategy, Core Services Engineering and Operations, the author of the latest email.

Microsoft announced its updated work-from-home policy earlier this month, via which most of its employees are authorized to work from home part-time -- meaning less than 50 percent of the time. With manager approval, some employees have the option of continuing to work from home full-time.

According to Microsoft's message this week, working from home is still "strongly encouraged." However, there are exceptions for states in Stage 3 to allow people with difficulties to work from home to work onsite. During Stages 4 and 5, employees are able to opt to return to company worksites on their own, as long as they abide by occupancy limits and health and safety requirements. (As of now, all states in the U.S. are in Stage 3, officials said, with the exception of California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and worksites in Fort Collins and Boulder, Colorado, which are in Stage 2.)