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Microsoft to Allow Some Employees to Opt for Permanent Remote Work -- 2nd Update

10/09/2020 | 04:36pm EST

By Aaron Tilley

Microsoft Corp. is going to permit some staff to work from home on a regular basis even after the pandemic fades, in another sign that changes to work routines made in recent months will be enduring.

The software giant this week spelled out to staff what office life would look like once regular office work resumes. Most employees are going to be allowed to work from home routinely, as long as that time adds up to less than half of their workweek, Microsoft Chief People Officer Kathleen Hogan said in a blog post Friday summing up the guidance issued to staff. Work schedule flexibility, she added, is now considered standard for most roles.

Some workers will be able to work remotely on a permanent basis if it is approved by managers, Microsoft said. Tech news outlet the Verge earlier reported on the memo.

Microsoft's move to allow people to work from home permanently capitalizes on the trend that has become common for many businesses and industries because of the pandemic. Social-media company Twitter Inc. in May said that most of its staff would be able to keep working remotely after the Covid-19 outbreak has passed.

"It is our goal to offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual work styles, while balancing business needs and ensuring we live our culture," Ms. Hogan said. The company, however, won't shift entirely to remote work. "We believe there is value in employees being together in the workplace," she said.

"We can't be dogmatic about where we work, for at least the knowledge workers," Chief Executive Satya Nadella said this week. Half of the company's workforce or more could take advantage of flexible work arrangements, he said at The Wall Street Journal's CEO Council Summit. Who works remotely may shift, though. "That's a difficult thing to plan for."

Microsoft was one of the first big American companies to ask employees to work from home when the pandemic struck. It also has been one of the big corporate winners from the pandemic, as companies adapted to navigate the remote-work environment and embraced the kind of cloud-computing services and workplace collaboration tools the Redmond, Wash.-based company sells.

Many companies have yet to return to the office. Google is keeping most of its staff working remotely until at least July 2021. Facebook Inc. is letting staff work remotely through July 2021 after earlier saying workers could remain away from offices through the end of 2020.

Microsoft employees also are going to be allowed to move domestically in the U.S., pending approval, but benefits and pay may change based on the company's compensation scale by location, a person briefed on the guidance said.

Microsoft also said more changes may be ahead. "We will continue to evolve our approach to flexibility over time as we learn more," Ms. Hogan said.

The number of Americans working from home surged during the pandemic, and many corporate leaders expect that to continue. According to a global survey commissioned by Microsoft earlier this year, 82% of managers said they would have more flexible work-from-home policies after the pandemic, and 71% of employees and managers reported a desire to continue working from home at least part-time.

Larry Fink, chief executive of BlackRock Inc., said at a conference last month that he doesn't think BlackRock will ever be 100% back in office. "I actually believe maybe 60% or 70%, and maybe that's a rotation of people, but I don't believe we'll ever have a full cadre of people in [the] office."

Not every leader is on board with working from home, though. Netflix Inc. Chief Executive Reed Hastings told the Journal earlier this year, "I don't see any positives. Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative."

--Allison Prang contributed to this article.

Write to Aaron Tilley at aaron.tilley@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

10-09-20 1836ET

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