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Microsoft Scraps Return-To-Work Date Given ‘Uncertainty Of COVID-19’

“Given the uncertainty of COVID-19, we’ve decided against attempting to forecast a new date for a full reopening of our U.S. work sites in favor of opening U.S. work sites as soon as we’re able to do so safely based on public health guidance,” according to a Microsoft post.

Microsoft has decided against picking a date to make employees return to the office, according to a blog post Thursday.

The tech giant scrapped Oct. 4 as the first possible date to fully reopen the Redmond, Wash., headquarters and other U.S. sites, according to the post.

“Given the uncertainty of COVID-19, we’ve decided against attempting to forecast a new date for a full reopening of our U.S. work sites in favor of opening U.S. work sites as soon as we’re able to do so safely based on public health guidance,” according to the post. “From there, we’ll communicate a 30-day transition period that provides time for employees to prepare while allowing us to continue to be agile and flexible as we look to the data and make choices to protect employee health, safety and well-being.”

[RELATED: Microsoft Teams, Outlook To Get New Hybrid Work Capabilities]

The announcement came just ahead of a digital event in which CEO Satya Nadella discussed what he calls two of the biggest work trends to emerge from the pandemic: the “hybrid paradox” and “the great reshuffle.”

The news comes as other tech companies including Google, Dell and World Wide Technology examine their schedules for returning workers to physical offices and on the heels of Microsoft itself announcing new hybrid work capabilities for applications including Teams and Outlook.

Kelly Yeh, president of Chantilly, Va.-based Microsoft partner Phalanx Technology Group, told CRN in an interview that while demand has tempered for tools to enable remote work among his client base, he still sees a business opportunity in introducing clients to Microsoft tools that can analyze remote worker performance.

“There‘s always a better way to do something,” Yeh said. “If you can find efficiencies and gain better metrics and better information and be able to apply KPIs (key performance indicators) to things, then teleworking becomes less and less of a manager’s nightmare.”

Promoting the new capabilities, Nadella participated in a digital event Thursday to discuss two trends that have emerged among employees. The first is a “hybrid paradox” of workers missing human interactions in the workplace but still wanting the option to work from home. The second, the “great reshuffle,” refers to his other observation that employees are leaving jobs over new preferences on when, where and how they work plus the purpose of their work. He called the trends “unlike anything in the last 100 years or so.”

“You take the two, they add up to massive amounts of change and I think that this comes down to flexibility -- and when you say flexibility you need, one, technology, right?” Nadella said. “The malleable resources, software and digital technology, help organizations navigate this.”

“All of that technology is all about helping with the change -- but then, it‘s not always about the tools,” he continued. “It’s about even great management in the management and employee connection, because the empathy of managers is probably at the highest demand today because in order to discern even what flexibility is needed, you need to have that compassion, that empathy as a leader.”

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