Microsoft is the latest of the tech giants to enshrine working from home as a permanent fixture of its operations.
According to the Verge, which that cited an internal memo, instead of cautiously reopening its US workspaces and crossing its fingers that employees—or their loved ones—don’t end up with covid-19 as a result, Microsoft will shift to a “hybrid workspace.”
What that “hybrid” space actually looks like will mean different things to different employees. Every one of them will get the option to work remotely “for less than 50%” of their workweek, permanently. With supervisor approval, whoever, Microsoft will be granting some workers permanent remote status.
While Microsoft’s not the first major tech player to let its employees turn their homes into their forever-offices—Twitter first gave its employees that option back in mid-May—it’s still an idea that some tech CEO’s are a bit bristly about. Last month, Google CEO Sundar Pichai hinted in an interview that the company was working on more “flexible”options for its employees once they return to the office next year, but still seems dead-set on keeping them at their desks at least a few days a week. Facebook, too, is extending its work-from-home orders until next summer, but hasn’t made any moves to let its employees keep on remotely working past that.
Maybe they should. Cities like San Fransisco and Seattle have been booming tech hubs for years. This translated to the cities becoming more expensive, more stratified, and more, well, blatantly unfair to non-techies. Last year, San Fransisco reported a 17% rise in residents living on the streets or in their cars: the highest one-night count increase the city’ seen in almost two decades.
Allowing employees at these sorts of tech-meccas to work from home might help. As The Verge reported, Microsoft’s employees who chose to work remotely on a permanent basis will be allowed to move across the country if they choose, and while it won’t cover the costs of hauling across the US, the company did offer to cover the home office expenses for those remote workers. Expanding Silicon Valley’s workforce outward could relieve the pressure in these cities.
The shift to a remote-friendly tech force isn’t going to solve the crises in these cities overnight—far from it. But Microsoft’s new policies signify a shift, not only in a safer direction for its own workforce, but in an economically healthier one for the cities these companies tend to run roughshod over.