By Kimberly Chin 

Microsoft Corp., one of the first American companies to ask staff to shift to remote work more than a year ago as the pandemic hit, is ready to begin welcoming employees back to the office.

Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., headquarters and nearby campuses are to start shifting to a hybrid-work approach on March 29, with some employees returning to office desks while others work from home, the company said Monday.

"Our goal is to give employees further flexibility, allowing people to work where they feel most productive and comfortable, while also encouraging employees to work from home as the virus and related variants remain concerning," Microsoft said in a blog post.

The software company's office locations spanning 21 countries will be ready to accommodate additional workers in compliance with guidance from local authorities, the company said. The initial guidance affects roughly 20% of Microsoft's more than 160,000 employees, the company said.

Microsoft said it doesn't expect to recall all employees any time soon. Once the coronavirus pandemic is no longer a significant threat to communities, Microsoft said it expects partial working from home to be routine for many of its jobs. The company previously has said it will allow some workers to work remotely on a permanent basis with their manager's approval.

With the Covid-19 vaccine rollout progressing, the shift to hybrid work is shaping up to be a critical challenge for companies this year, not unlike last year's rush to figure out how to keep business going with employees scattered at home. Like last year, actions aren't uniform.

Many companies are still holding off on bringing work back to the office. Google parent Alphabet Inc. is keeping most of its staff working remotely until at least September. Social-media company Twitter Inc. said that most of its staff would be able to keep working remotely after the pandemic has ended. Facebook Inc. has moved toward having a substantially larger portion of employees working remotely.

The number of Americans working from home surged during the pandemic, and many corporate leaders expect that to continue. According to a global survey by Microsoft that was released on Monday, 73% of workers said they want flexible work-from-home policies to stay, and 65% of employees reported wanting more in-person time with their teams after the pandemic. About 66% of businesses were considering redesigning offices to accommodate hybrid work environments.


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

March 22, 2021 15:13 ET (19:13 GMT)

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