- Microsoft has been updating conference rooms, evaluating building-usage data and relying on Teams for sales.
- The changes appear in a new guide the company published on what the company calls hybrid work.
After sending its employees home last year to reduce the spread of coronavirus, Microsoft has decided how it will operate with some employees on-site while others continue to contribute remotely. It's part of the company's new hybrid approach to work after it began to welcome some employees back to its U.S. headquarters in late March.
The company recently shared some of the practices it has put in place for its hybrid plan.
Governments and companies have been eager for advice on how to approach returning to the office because missteps could cause problems. Simply ditching the tools that workers used at the height of the pandemic might lead to higher costs than necessary, and employees who don't feel supported in the new way of work might want to take other jobs. So, Microsoft is providing guidance. In doing so, it's emphasizing how its products can be critical even after the worst of the pandemic is over.
"Hybrid work represents the biggest shift to how we work in our generation. And it will require a new operating model, spanning people, places, and processes," Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella wrote in a LinkedIn post in which he described some of the changes the company has instituted. The company also published a guide to hybrid work that touches on Microsoft's own adjustments.
The information isn't just a way to show how Microsoft's own software is coming in handy. Jared Spataro, a corporate vice president working on Microsoft 365, said in a blog post on Friday that during the meetings he and his teammates hold almost every day with executives and partners, they're often asked, "What is Microsoft doing?"
Here are some of Microsoft's major accommodations:
- Asking employees to make time for breaks: Microsoft conducted research showing that attending back-to-back video calls generates stress. The company is encouraging its teams to enable recently added features in the Outlook email and calendar application — included in Microsoft 365 productivity software subscriptions — that can automatically add a break before or after each meeting for a set period of time.
- Making bosses consider well-being: "Managers now need to think about the wellness of the people they work with as a first-class priority, and then do everything they can to think about productivity in a broad sense instead of just as short-term output," Nadella wrote.
- Updating conference rooms: Big meeting rooms in the company's offices will be outfitted with Teams Rooms, which include devices that gather high-quality audio and video for people who aren't on-site. The company will install equipment to deliver better video calls in smaller rooms.
- Managing devices from the cloud: Microsoft believes that managing employees' PCs, tablets and phones using a cloud service provides more flexibility than running the management software in on-premises data centers, and so it's making that transition.
- Bolstering security: The company is asking employees who work remotely to run a test on their home internet networks, and it's deploying Microsoft Defender for Endpoint security software to manage any smartphone an employee might use to access corporate tools.
- Hiring across geographies: Some people have used Covid as an opportunity to relocate, and that means the best person for a given job might not be living in the Seattle area where Microsoft has been based for the past four decades. So the company has started telling managers they can hire people from anywhere for more positions. Even some leadership roles can now be held by people working remotely. Meanwhile, the company is hiring in Atlanta, Houston and, Reston, Virginia.
- Smartening up facilities: Microsoft is matching up information on which rooms its employees book for meetings (through the Viva Insights software). It collects usage data from sensors in its buildings so it can determine how to balance focusing space with meeting space. "When usage data showed that we were using small rooms for about 80% of meetings -- but they made up only 50% of our floor plan -- we adjusted plans to reconfigure space," the company said in its hybrid work guide. Microsoft is also using its Azure cloud services to tell employees how crowded certain office areas are and to keep real-estate staffers posted on occupancy relative to safety restrictions.
- Digitizing sales: The Teams communication app remains valuable for showing customers products online, rather than operating physical stores or having salespeople travel to meet with clients onsite. "Microsoft Store Associates are using Teams as a virtual showroom to demo products and provide personalized shopping experiences – generating a roughly 10% increase in customer satisfaction and higher sales conversion," Microsoft said in the guide. Our technical specialists are using Teams to bring their deep expertise to three times as many customers through virtual demos."
The full guide is available here.