Much of the tech world moved to remote work last year when the pandemic started. Various companies started to announce future dates during which they’d guarantee workers the ability to work from home. That was helpful, as many needed to plan for child care, parent assistance, and more. My company kept pushing the date out, and early this year (or late last) said that we would have the option through all of 2021.
Microsoft had various announcements, but one was that employees could work from home permanently. For less than 50% of their time. The headlines downplayed the restriction, though I was glad to see some flexibility. Now, Microsoft is starting to allow some workers back to campus, noting that they are on step 4 of their 6 step dial. This is 57,000 workers, which is quite a few. Masks and social distancing are still required.
While a good portion of employees want flexibility, and many prefer remote work, there are a good number that want to return to an office and be around other people. While Microsoft, and my employer, both want to embrace the changes of the last year, finding a balance between the past and future is hard. I thought that Microsoft’s blog on embracing a flexible workplace echoes a lot of what I hear from my company and a few others. We want to work with you, but there might be some restrictions. Certainly tax implications are a part of this for my company, and perhaps for Microsoft as well.
I honestly am not quite sure how I want the future to work. While I appreciate remote first, and I like the idea of everyone being somewhat a peer during meetings, I also value getting people together. I don’t really look forward to going to an office and logging onto Zoom from a desk. I want to see people in conference rooms, able to discuss, debate, and brainstorm solutions for the future.
For technologists, this might be easier. I could see more whiteboards, like Mural, in use in meetings, allowing remote people to participate in similar ways to those in the room, but I until we get something that creates some sort of virtual presence, I’m not sure that we will really see a good blend of in-person and remote attendees. I hope companies work on solutions like this, as the world has changed and in person attendance will still matter.