Remote working is the gift that keeps on giving, as Microsoft's workforce reacted glumly to the Windows giant's plan to push back the reopening of its US offices.
The company had outlined new guidance earlier this month on how things might look in a post-pandemic world (no more than 50 per cent of the time at home without agreement, a potential salary tinkering if employees leave town - that sort of thing) but the announcement that a hoped-for return to relatively normal office life was to slip from January 2021 to July 2021 has come as a bit of a blow for staff.
As remains the norm, even in these abnormal times, workers took to social media to express their disappointment.
MSFT announced that the first opportunity for things to return to normal won't be until July 2021, and almost universally, the people around me at work have hit new lows emotionally (myself included). The long, slow decline of productivity will get faster & steeper this winter.— Carmen Crincoli, but Fhqwhgads (@CarmenCrincoli) October 22, 2020
While some have enjoyed the transition to a life of remote working, others have enjoyed the process... not so much. A lack of choice in the matter was cited as one factor, while others highlighted that the novelty value soon wore off.
First reported by veteran Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley, the 21 October internal email pushed things back to 6 July 2021, with working from home "strongly encouraged" albeit with some exceptions depending on the US state. Reopening outside of the US depends on the policies implemented for each country.
In terms of the UK operation, we understand that Microsoft hasn't given staffers a set date for a return to the office.
It seems a long time ago that we took a trip to Microsoft's Stockholm office, which had been deliberately sized to encourage remote working; there were only 237 workstations for the approximately 600 workers employed in the region. Back then, Microsoft's US staffers were not having the best of time with the company's open plan office approach. How things have changed.
Other tech giants have also made changes in light of the ongoing pandemic. In July Fujitsu announced plans to shutter half of its Japanese office space by 2022 and Dell warned in August that the majority of its workforce was unlikely to be heading back to the office on a regular basis.
For those employees who would not have chosen a life working from a closet at home, things remain tough. We would, however, remind them Microsoft also has a plan for that other bellwether of pandemic preparedness: toilet paper.
We were told that the Azure smarts behind that Stockholm office tracks what gets used, so there'll be no sneaky stocking up by remote workers in Sweden at least. ®