Microsoft had a lot of news to share about remote work today, including a bunch of upcoming updates for Teams centered around hybrid meetings. But perhaps most pertinent to the company's employees was an announcement that it's delaying their return to the office yet again. Microsoft is putting the plans on hold indefinitely due to the COVID-19 delta variant.
Most recently, the aim was to fully reopen the headquarters in Redmond, Washington and several other US offices no earlier than October 4th. "Given the uncertainty of COVID-19, we’ve decided against attempting to forecast a new date for a full reopening of our US work sites in favor of opening US work sites as soon as we’re able to do so safely based on public health guidance." Jared Spataro, Microsoft's corporate vice president for modern work, wrote in a blog post.
Once Microsoft has a date in mind for reopening, it will tell workers about a 30-day transition period so they can make preparations. That window, according to Spataro, will let Microsoft "continue to be agile and flexible as we look to the data and make choices to protect employee health, safety and well-being." As The New York Times notes, Microsoft will require employees, vendors and guests to have proof of vaccination before being allowed to enter its offices.
"It’s a stark reminder that this is the new normal," Spataro wrote. "Our ability to come together will ebb and flow."
With that in mind, it seems Microsoft employees will be taking advantage of the hybrid meeting features that are coming to Teams. They include support for intelligent cameras; more immersive PowerPoint presentations with live video in slides; a way to tell co-workers if you plan to attend meetings in person or remotely when you RSVP; and Apple CarPlay support for audio-only meetings.
Other major tech companies have delayed returns to the office. Amazon previously planned to bring corporate employees back to its offices this week. In August, it pushed back those plans once again, this time until January.