REDMOND, Wash. — After working from home for more than two years, Microsoft employees returning to the company’s headquarters starting next week might not recognize the place.
Entire buildings have taken shape in the heart of the campus since they’ve been gone. The company is now a few years into a redevelopment project that reimagines the huge swath of land where Bill Gates & Co. built Microsoft into a tech giant starting four decades ago.
The demolition of the company’s original Redmond buildings took place in 2019, so the existence of the massive construction site won’t be new, but the progress since then will give employees their first real glimpse of their future workplace.
There’s still plenty of space to work in the meantime. The project is taking place on 72 of the company’s 500 acres, and the company had already relocated workers to nearby offices prior to the onset of the pandemic.
Microsoft told GeekWire this week that the first building in the redevelopment is on track for occupancy in late 2023. Prior to the pandemic, the first buildings in the project were expected to open in 2022 and 2023.
The company announced last week that it would be fully reopening its Washington state facilities, including its Redmond headquarters, starting Feb. 28.
Employees will have 30 days from that date “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 announcing the news.
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.”
Microsoft says it’s “constantly listening to understand what our employees need to be productive,” and plans to use data from employee surveys and building management systems (such as badge access points and conference room bookings) to understand and respond to new patterns in the way people work.
“My team has been designing and building spaces that can support hybrid work for years,” wrote Michael Ford, the company’s corporate vice president of global workplace services, in a LinkedIn post last fall.
He added, “While we have adapted our health and wellness standards to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, our goal remains the same: take a research-driven approach to design our workplaces, grounding everything in our foundational design strategy of inclusivity.”
The redevelopment, on the east side of state Route 520, will ultimately include 17 new four- and five-story buildings, totaling about 3 million square feet. The new campus replaces the original “X-wing” structures and nearby buildings that totaled about 1 million square feet.
The southeastern portion of the project will include large playfields and open spaces. A bike and pedestrian bridge over state Route 520 will connect the northwest corner of the project to the future Sound Transit Link light rail station, which is now slated to open in 2023, and the company’s West Campus, home to its entertainment and devices teams.
Microsoft hired four different architects and general contractors for the job — designers LMN, NBBJ, WRNS Studio and ZGF Architects and contractors Skanska, Balfour Beatty, GLY and Sellen — and split the project into four sections that it describes in planning documents as “villages.”