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The flexible workplace is here to stay

'Moving forward, it is our goal to offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual workstyles, while balancing business needs'


When the confirmed cases of COVID-19 begin to fall with the advent of vaccines – the Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed Chief Advisor Dr Moncef Slaoui told CNN on Sunday that the first doses would be delivered to Americans on 11 December – the issue of returning to work will become a hot topic. Microsoft is thinking ahead.

“Moving forward, it is our goal to offer as much flexibility as possible to support individual workstyles, while balancing business needs and ensuring we live our culture,” Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft’s Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer, wrote in a blog.

“Flexibility can mean different things to each of us, and we recognise there is no one-size-fits-all solution given the variety of roles, work requirements and business needs we have at Microsoft. To address this, we have provided guidance to employees to make informed decisions around scenarios that could include changes to their work site, work location, and/or work hours once offices are open without any COVID-19 restrictions. Our step-by-step guidance includes considerations like office space, salary and benefits, local law, personal taxes, expenses and more.”

Microsoft, Kathleen Hogan
Kathleen Hogan, Microsoft Executive Vice President and Chief People Officer. Photo: Twitter / Microsoft

The guidance from Microsoft to its employees includes:

  • Work site (the physical space where you work, eg: office, centre, home, mobile): We recognise 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.
  • Work hours (the hours and days when employees work, eg: workday start and end times, full or part-time): Work schedule flexibility is now considered standard for most roles. While part-time continues to be subject to manager approval, our guidance is meant to facilitate an open conversation between a manager and employee regarding considerations.
  • Work location (the geographic location where you work, eg: city and country: Similarly the guidance is there for managers and employees to discuss and address considerations such as role requirements, personal tax, salary, expenses, etc.


In countries such as Australia where COVID-19 cases are mainly limited to people returning from overseas, there appears to be an acceptance that the traditional Monday to Friday in the office is dead. Most businesses are happy to see their non-essential workers return a maximum of three days, with staggered starting times. Workers with pre-existing conditions are given more leeway to work from home rather than use public transport.

“Employed Australians are already seeing their workplaces embrace flexibility. More than three in five (65%) agree there is greater flexibility on where and when they work, with 51% seeing remote working as the default instead of the workplace even when restrictions lift,” wrote Switzer’s Sophie Renton.

“While 2020 has been a challenging year for businesses, it has provided a time for organisations to adapt, pivot and reinvent themselves. There is now a greater openness to change and more than half of employed Australians (55%) believe their workplace has used this time as a chance to invest in growth and development for the business. Despite the challenges, it is an exciting time for organisations to innovate and adapt for the future, as much of what we had pre-COVID-19, we will never see again. We are not moving to the next but the new. It is not a continuation of how things were, but the start of a whole new reality.”

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