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Microsoft Scraps Return-to-Office Plan as Delta Variant Rages

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(Bloomberg) — Microsoft Corp. is scrapping plans to fully reopen offices by Oct. 4, saying it can no longer give a date for returning to work because the pandemic is too unpredictable. 


“Given the uncertainty of Covid-19, we’ve decided against attempting to forecast a new date for a full reopening of our U.S. work sites in favor of opening U.S. work sites as soon as we’re able to do so safely based on public health guidance,” the Redmond, Washington-based software maker said in a blog post Thursday. “From there, we’ll communicate a 30-day transition period that provides time for employees to prepare.”


The strategy is similar to one adopted by fellow tech giant Apple Inc., which has delayed its own return-to-office plans multiple times. It has told employees it will give them a one-month warning on a return deadline as it copes with Covid-19’s delta variant, which has led to a resurgence in cases.


In another nod to pandemic realities, Microsoft’s LinkedIn professional-networking site will make it easier for job seekers to find remote and hybrid roles. New options will let users filter out roles in traditional offices or find workplaces that offer a mix, according to the blog post. And LinkedIn plans to make it easier to find out about companies’ vaccination requirements. 


The Covid-19 pandemic has led employees to rethink how, where and why they want to work — a shift LinkedIn is calling “the great reshuffle.” Jobs listed on LinkedIn’s site as “remote” continue to increase, with such postings jumping more than 8.5 times since the start of the pandemic to 16% of the total in August.


But in-person work isn’t going away, the company said. Microsoft’s rank-and-file employees plan to eventually work from offices more frequently than managers expected, according to an internal survey. Eight percent of non-managerial employees said they’re looking to be in the office every day, compared with manager expectations for only 1%.


Nearly half of Microsoft employees plan to come in to the office three to four times a week, the survey found. That’s well above the 28% that managers expected. Still, the results showed that bosses generally plan to log more time in-person than their employees do.


In a twist, employees who would prefer staying home and staffers who want to go back to the office both gave the same reason: They felt it was easier to focus on work.

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