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The move by the software giant is noteworthy for cities and local governments eager to see how remote work will look long term and what it will mean for downtown areas.
Microsoft will begin fully reopening offices in Washington state and California’s Bay Area to employees and others beginning Feb. 28, the company indicated Monday.
The move comes after the software giant, like other businesses, has had many employees working remotely throughout the past two years during the coronavirus pandemic. The reopening plan marks a notable example of a major employer (Microsoft has about 103,000 employees in the U.S.) shifting towards bringing more workers back to offices.
And it is significant for cities and other local governments waiting to see how deep and long lasting pandemic-era trends with remote work will be, and how this will affect tax revenue tied to commercial real estate and downtown economies that rely on in-person workers.
“We’re pleased to be joining other area businesses welcoming back more employees in the coming weeks,” Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer wrote, referring to the Seattle-area reopening, in a blog post on the company’s website.
Capossela said employees would have 30 days from the 28th to “make adjustments to their routines and adopt the working preferences they’ve agreed upon with their managers.”
The blog post cited high vaccination rates against the coronavirus in the Seattle area, which is where the company is headquartered, as a key factor that will allow for office reopenings there, along with falling hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 in Washington state.
Capossela wrote that Microsoft anticipates that, along with the reopenings of the Washington and California sites, “many of our other U.S. locations will follow suit as conditions allow.” Microsoft has about 60 major offices nationwide.
Even as offices move to fully reopen, the blog post acknowledged that flexible work arrangements are likely to continue and said the company has given managers the ability to approve employee requests to adjust their work sites, locations or hours.
Bill Lucia is executive editor for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.
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