Microsoft has told staff that they will have the option of working from home permanently with manager approval.
The move mimics the US tech giant’s opponents Facebook and Twitter, which have also said remote work would be a permanent option.
It follows a rapid shift away from office working prompted by the COVID pandemic.
Numerous organizations are reconsidering how much office space they need, expecting a long- term increment in remote staff.
Microsoft said a few roles will keep on requiring an in-person presence, for example, those needing access to hardware, the firm included. However, many staff will also be able to work home part-time, without requiring formal approval from their managers.
“Our goal is to evolve the way we work overtime with intention—guided by employee input, data, and our commitment to help individual work styles and business needs while living our culture,” a Microsoft spokesperson said of the new guidance, which she said would apply to UK staff also.
As of April, more than 46% of those employed were doing some work from home, according to the Office of National Statistics.
That was comparable to the US, where 42% of the workforce was remote in May, according to Stanford University economics professor Nicholas Bloom, whose research looked at people aged 20-64, earning more than $10,000 last year.
While that share decreased to about 35% in August, it still marked a major change. Before the pandemic, just 2% of workers were remote full time, he said.
“What we’re doing now is extremely unusual,” he said.
Many employers hailed the shift initially as being surprisingly productive. In any case, as the months have passed, a portion of the drawbacks have emerged.
For instance, at a conference, this month, Microsoft’s own CEO Satya Nadella said the lack of division between private life and work-life meant “it sometimes feels like you are sleeping at work”.
As companies look beyond the pandemic, Prof Bloom said many are eyeing policies that combine two days a week at home with three days of office time, which will remain important for meetings, building company culture and loyalty and basic mental health.
“The radical extreme – along these lines, full-time in the workplace or full-time at home – are not ideal for most people,” said Prof Bloom.
But he said he did not expect the pre-pandemic office to return.
“The Microsoft statement is completely in line with everything I’ve been hearing,” he said. “There’s pretty much uniform consensus now that the pandemic has permanently shifted the way we work.”
A Willis Towers Watson survey of US employers in May found that they expected 22% of staff to continue working from home after the pandemic, up from only 7% in 2019.
About 55% of employers said they expected staff to work from home at least one day seven days after worries about the infection pass, a PWC survey found. What’s more, over 80% of workers said they supported that idea.
Analysts say such a shift could have widespread implications, reducing demand for office and residential properties inexpensive city centers. Rents in New York and San Francisco have just dropped.
Prof Bloom said the changes in the workplace may help ease affordability issues, yet won’t spell the finish of city centers. “The affordability levels of New York and San Francisco may return to where they were in 2005,” he said. “It’s clearly not the case they’re going to empty out.”
This news is originally posted on BBC