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Microsoft’s return focuses on employees leaving Office

(Bloomberg) – Microsoft Corp. While the U.S. has begun to recall employees to its headquarters in recent weeks, its return from office strategy rests on hybrid work.

From Wall Street to Silicon Valley, companies are making messy workplace transitions after a two-year hiatus during the pandemic. Microsoft has a unique approach as it sells remote collaboration tools that compete with Zoom Video Communications Inc. and Cisco Systems Inc. Even when employees return to their desks, company leaders focus on employees who are not working in the office.

“It’s the reverse,” Jared Spataro, corporate vice president of Modern Work at Microsoft, said in an interview. “You have to design your physical space for people who aren’t there.”

Spataro will speak at the Bloomberg Work Shifting 2.0 Summit in New York on Wednesday.

Microsoft’s return to Office is among several corporate stays that have been delayed, sometimes more than once, in recent months, as companies grapple with legal battles over Covid infection rates and a nationwide vaccine mandate that the Supreme Court held. Went to court. Rising gas prices of late may also slow movement in offices, but many CEOs and civic leaders such as New York Mayor Eric Adams are eager to see workers back at their desks.

For Microsoft, the guideline is that more than 50% of remotes’ schedules must be approved by managers.

At The Hive, its test center, a few miles from its Redmond, Washington campus, engineers move office chairs back and forth and camera angles around to capture the optimal teleconference environment. Staff down the hall pose as remote attendees, providing immediate feedback. A full-size replica of the one-room Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella and other senior leadership use for top-level meetings fills the floor of a warehouse.

What they’ve found is that small changes can really improve the experience, making those daily calls less of a grind. The typical conference table, for example, a triangle facing away from the screen, or a small semi-circle in front of the screen, was redesigned in the United Nations-style. Both setups address a major problem with standard conference rooms: attendees do not face the camera completely, and participants in person migrate to each other.

Such a change could help Microsoft’s Teams software suite gain a foothold over its rivals. According to researcher IDC, revenue projections for conferencing software put Microsoft in second place in the first half of 2021, behind Zoom and above Cisco’s Webex. For team collaboration applications during the same period, Microsoft Teams had a 25% market share, Salesforce.com Inc. of more than 18% for Slack, and well above Atlassian Corp. (Trello and Confluence) and Smartsheet, both at 7%.

“The growth in the market is very healthy,” Wayne Kurtzman, director of research for social and collaboration at IDC, said in an interview. “Most of the top ten vendors are growing in double digits,” with the latest expansion in workers such as nurses and construction workers.

Meanwhile, last week at Microsoft’s headquarters, occupancy jumped 142% from the first one, according to the company, which declined to provide more details.

The mood was like that of a college get-together, the dizzy staff excited to no longer be at home. Dele Downs was cool in returning to office life for nearly 100,000 Microsoft employees in the US. She is fifteen months into her job as a Senior Human Resources Program Manager for Diversity and Inclusion, but she has yet to work side by side with her entire team.

“We’re all trying to figure that out at the same time,” she said.

While Microsoft executives at Nadella are promoting the idea of ​​a so-called metaverse to connect workers in different locations, the company also says it knows it has to slow down.

“We’re just trying to get people where they are,” Spataro said. “You have to crawl before you can go completely into the virtual world.”

-With assistance from Matthew Boyle and Dinah Bass.

© 2022 Bloomberg LP

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