Microsoft and Expedia announce next phases in office reopenings, finally emerging from pandemic

Microsoft’s empty Redmond campus at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Updated below with information on Expedia reopening.

One of the longest “three weeks” in history will soon come to an end.

Nearly two years after asking its employees to work from home in what was hoped might be a temporary precaution, Microsoft is fully reopening its Washington state facilities — including its Redmond headquarters — effective Feb. 28, the company told employees this morning.

“From this date, employees will have 30 days to make adjustments to their routines and adopt the working preferences they’ve agreed upon with their managers,” wrote Chris Capossela, Microsoft’s chief marketing officer, in a post this morning announcing the news.

He added, “Reaching this stage allows us to fully open our facilities to employees, visitors and guests. All campus services will return, including the Connector ride-share option for employees in the Puget Sound area.”

With the announcement, the company is moving into the sixth and final stage of its hybrid workplace policy, as shown in this previously released graphic.

Capossela cited the high rates of COVID-19 vaccination in King County, plus declining hospitalizations and deaths in the state, as well as available local testing capacity to comply with government guidelines.

Microsoft and other big tech companies often serve as bellwethers for others in setting these policies, and Capossela wrote that Microsoft is “pleased to be joining other area businesses welcoming back more employees in the coming weeks.”

It’s the latest sign of companies relaxing restrictions as the Omicron variant of COVID-19 begins to wane in many regions of the country. Amazon last week said vaccinated employees would be able to stop wearing masks.

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Also this morning, Seattle-based online travel giant Expedia Group said it will implement its hybrid work policy beginning April 4.

Currently, the company’s offices are open to vaccinated employees on a voluntary basis. With the updated policy, the company says its expectation is that “employees will spend at least 50% of their time in the office, working with their respective leaders on an appropriate schedule.”

Employees will still need to be fully vaccinated to work in the office, Expedia says.

Microsoft says it will give employees flexibility to work with their managers to find the best solution. Here is part of the guidance the company is giving employees:

Work site (the physical space where you work, e.g. office, center, home, mobile): We recognize that some employees are required to be onsite and some roles and businesses are better suited for working away from the worksite than others. However, for most roles, we view working from home part of the time (less than 50%) as now standard – assuming manager and team alignment.

Work hours (the hours and days when employees work, e.g. workday start and end times, full- or part-time): Work schedule flexibility is now considered standard for most roles. While part-time continues to be subject to manager approval, our guidance is meant to facilitate an open conversation between a manager and employee regarding considerations.

Work location (the geographic location where you work, e.g. city and country): Similarly the guidance is there for managers and employees to discuss and address considerations such as role requirements, personal tax, salary, expenses, etc.

Microsoft says employees will need to be vaccinated to enter its U.S. buildings, but it has a process in place to accommodate those who are not vaccinated due to medical condition or religious exemption.

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