Microsoft is pushing back its earliest possible date for when employees can return to the office without health and safety restrictions to September from July, Insider has learned.
"We believe this date will afford additional flexibility for employees to make summer plans, and we'll continue to keep you updated if the date moves out," Microsoft executive vice president Kurt DelBene told employees in an email viewed by Insider.
September 7 is the earliest possible date Microsoft offices will move to what the firm calls "Stage 6," which is when most health and safety restrictions can be removed because COVID-10 is "no longer a significant burden on a country/region," DelBene wrote.
Microsoft started giving employees the option to return to the office if they wanted starting March 29, but it will not be required (except for essential workers) until Stage 6 is reached. Microsoft has been "continually monitoring conditions" in its US-based offices, DelBene wrote, which has influenced the decision to move the earliest possible date back form July 6, which it had announced last fall.
Local Microsoft leadership will be able to make individual decisions on whether their office opening dates need to be pushed back past September 7 based on conditions in their own regions, the email said, and employees may also speak with their managers if they wish to have different work arrangements even after Stage 6 is reached. While workers will need to seek that approval, Microsoft has previously said that permanent remote work was an option.
Other tech firms have been slowly rolling out their reopening plans as well. Facebook, Twitter, VMware, Atlassian, Salesforce and others have all rolled out the option for employees to work from home permanently even after offices become safe.
Other firms, however, plan to make permanent remote work the exception and not the rule.
Amazon plans to return to an "office-centric culture" where most people start going back to offices by early fall — about 10% of its corporate employees have already started going back. Similarly, Google plans to start reopening its offices, though working in them will be voluntary for US employees until September. From there, employees can apply to work remote for up to 12 months, but only if they can prove exceptional circumstances.
Google in its recent note to employees also encouraged them to get vaccinated, though did not say it was a prerequisite to returning to offices. Microsoft's email did not mention vaccinations.
Insider has reached out to Microsoft for comment.