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Microsoft to let more employees work from home permanently

In a memo on Friday, Microsoft told employees it will be embracing a more flexible workplace by allowing more of its workforce to work from home permanently. The company will now allow employees to work from home freely for less than 50 percent of their working week, or for managers to approve permanent remote work.

Video Transcript

- So we're all working from home. Most people, lots of people are working from home. It's kind of becoming a big debate, though, in corporate America whether or not we're all that productive. Should this stick around? And Microsoft coming out, saying that it's going to let all employees be remote forever, if they wish.

Dan Roberts, you are currently remote. And there is sort of this-- it is now-- there's a lot of banks that are calling people back. We have Reed Hastings out of Netflix who has just said it's terrible, especially when it comes for international. He really doesn't like it.

So there's definitely two sides to this right now. Microsoft picking their side. Where do you think this is all going to end up?

DAN ROBERTS: Well, it's interesting, Jenna. And there are a bunch of asterisks with the Microsoft news. A lot of employees have been told basically that they can spend at least 50% of their workweek remotely when employees are brought back, but managers can approve for employees to be permanently remote if they choose. But if you choose to be permanently remote, of course, you lose your designated office space. No space for you at the office.

And then I also have been interested to see, I mean, if and when people say, OK, I'm going fully remote and then they move, you would think that there will be pay adjustments. I mean, if you work for a company in New York City and you're getting paid based on the cost of living in New York City, which is crazy high, and you say, OK, I'm remote now, I'm going to the suburbs of Colorado, the suburbs of Denver, you would think there will be a pay adjustment. So people might be in for a rude awakening.

But you're right. You mention Reed Hastings and his take. Let's also mention that Netflix just bought a ton of new office space in London. Amazon just opened up or bought new physical office spaces in a number of US cities. So you're right, companies are kind of choosing their side.

Now, of course, for now we're still in a time when no one has really fully brought people back. You mentioned JPM in New York and a lot of banking examples. But I do think that in general, and we can debate this, the take that a lot of companies are going to say to everyone, you're remote forever has been overblown. And what I mean by that is I think when the coast is clear, whatever that will mean, I guess vaccine widely available, I think a lot of employers, and more than people currently predict, will tell people, all right, come on back to the office.

And I think a lot of people who got very used to remote work might be in for a rude awakening. Oh, back to the office, wait a minute. Now of course, you know, there will be exceptions. I also think it's true, and not mutually exclusive to say, that some companies have discovered, maybe accidentally, wow, remote work is working so well, almost too well. Maybe we don't need so many people in the office.

So look, there's going to be examples of both in the new normal

- In the new normal, especially for tech, they have lots of perks, right? There's lunch and there's pre-school at Alphabet and all that kind of stuff that goes along with it as well.

So as you say, like we're not there yet, because we don't have the vaccine, we don't have the treatments. But once we get them, could an office actually be seen as a perk, something that people, that they want, that they have to negotiate to get to be able to go someplace?

DAN ROBERTS: Well, it's funny, isn't it, it's a fun thought exercise. Because I was just talking to someone the other day. I think this was off the record, so the person will remain nameless. But a pretty high placed executive in the sports world who was talking about a deal that was sent his way, an opportunity to acquire a business. And he said, well, you know, we obviously weren't going to do it because we couldn't meet with the people and do our due diligence.

I said, well, I mean, you can do Zoom. And he said, come on, you know, if one company is going to buy another, you want to meet face to face with the people that you're doing the deal with in a room. So it's just a reminder, I mean, you know, things having ground to a halt in that sense. Business travel having ground to a halt. Conferences, summits, there are some things that you need an office for. And that's up for debate.

But I agree with you that, you know, especially, look, to get a little bit inside baseball for a minute, for what we do, you know, in the media, I love the newsroom. I miss the newsroom. We yell things out and talk to each other about developing stories. We haven't done that in seven months.

So it's going to vary based on industry. But in tech, I do think a lot of the perks are things that no one wants to do anymore in this new world, right? I mean, shared snacks, where everyone grabs the snacks from the same container. Even once there's a vaccine, I mean, for what, at least a year, no one's going to want to do that.

- Dan, I, for one, really miss hearing you yell things out and hearing your typing. You have a very distinct typing style that I miss.