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Microsoft’s reopening and the future of hybrid workplaces

A year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic imposed distancing measures on the global workforce and accelerated the rise of the home office. Major technology companies, including Microsoft, set the mood with announcements that they’d work remotely until it was safe to return.

Indeed, Microsoft announced that its employees would have the option of working from home permanently. “Moving forward, it is our goal to offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual work styles, while balancing business needs and ensuring we live our culture,” the company said.

Now vaccines are flowing, and companies are beginning to consider what post-pandemic working conditions should look like.

Microsoft again is seeking a position of leadership in the discussion, and it says the future is a hybrid of remote and on-campus work. It’s walking that walk itself, and it’s advocating other organizations follow suit.

Microsoft’s next move: reopening more of its biggest work site (near Puget Sound) on March 29, with a stretch goal to reopen fully on July 6, depending on the United States’ progress containing the coronavirus. Even after that, the company expects hybrid work to be the norm, with most employees authorized to work from home part-time and some authorized to remain remote full-time.

Meanwhile, Microsoft released its 2021 Work Trend Index, appropriately titled “The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work — Are We Ready?” Among its findings: “[O]ver 70 percent of workers want flexible remote work options to continue, while over 65 percent are craving more in-person time with their teams. To prepare, 66 percent of business decision makers are considering redesigning physical spaces to better accommodate hybrid work environments. The data is clear: extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace.”

So what’s the bottom line for tech marketers? If Microsoft’s predictions about hybrid workplaces are accurate, your IT buyers will likely find themselves scrambling to accommodate the demands this flexible new workplace creates. 

The pandemic thrust IT pros into rapid-response mode to realign support to a sudden scatter of remote offices. Now, each employee will potentially need equipment, access and support for two offices: at home and on site. Systems that were constructed quickly in a crisis will need to be retrofitted for long-term service, and their on-site counterparts will need to come up to speed after a year of disuse. 

The coming months will require a major reckoning as organizations find their own comfort zone — and smart marketers will be ready to help them navigate.