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Microsoft’s WFH Policy Will Spread, But Data Security ‘Needs To Be Addressed’ By Employers

Companies seeking to emulate Microsoft’s permanent work-from-home option must invest in more than just network security, one solution provider told CRN.

With Microsoft disclosing that it’s “now standard” for employees to work from home at least part of the time, many other companies are certain to do the same, an executive at a Microsoft Gold partner told CRN.

But companies that haven’t yet invested in data security solutions will need to do so, if they truly want to emulate the approach Microsoft is taking, the executive said.

[Related: Confronting Covid-19: How Partners Made Zoom, Microsoft Teams And Cisco Webex Essential Viewing]

“Microsoft has a huge advantage. They have the tools and capabilities to protect their data without regard to an employee’s location. Not every business has invested in that kind of security,” said Jeanne Morelli, chief operating officer at iV4, a unit of Atlanta-based ProArch and Microsoft Gold partner, in an email to CRN.

“Most companies are just thankful they have the ability to operate remotely, but still have not set any strategic direction,” Morelli said. “Data security, not just network security, really needs to be addressed before organizations can feel comfortable following in Microsoft’s footsteps.”

At Microsoft, employees whose roles allow it will be allowed to work from home for less than 50 percent of the week—even once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

“We recognize that some employees are required to be onsite and some roles and businesses are better suited for working away from the worksite than others. However, for most roles, we view working from home part of the time (less than 50%) as now standard – assuming manager and team alignment,” wrote Kathleen Hogan, executive vice president and chief people officer at Microsoft, in a blog on Friday.

Microsoft managers will also be empowered to approve full-time remote work for staff members—and employees can now seek approval to relocate domestically, as well, according to a report from The Verge.

A work-from-home policy of this kind “is absolutely something we are going to continue to see with large and small companies across the world,” Morelli said in her email to CRN. “Companies spent a lot of money in the second and third quarters of this year putting together remote work capabilities. Now we’ve all been working remotely for so long, organizations are realizing that they can still do business effectively and maybe start saving a lot of real estate expenses.”

Along with security considerations, one of the biggest challenges as companies move to permanent remote work is employee retention, she said.

“Relationships with coworkers can be a significant contributor to employees remaining with one employer. We are losing those personal ‘water cooler’ conversations,” Morelli said. “Now there are apps for Microsoft Teams and other tools that can pair you with other employees to start impromptu conversations, but even those are short and sterile.”

For Microsoft, along with instituting part-time remote work as standard, the new guidelines cover flexibility around geographic location for employees, Hogan said.

In terms of work location, “the guidance is there for managers and employees to discuss and address considerations such as role requirements, personal tax, salary, expenses, etc.,” she wrote.

According to The Verge’s report, for employees that are approved to relocate domestically, their compensation may change based on Microsoft’s “geopay scale.”

Previously, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft had also extended its full-time remote work option through Jan. 19, 2021.

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