Microsoft employees started returning to the company’s headquarters over the last few weeks. The tech giant’s post-pandemic hybrid approach aims to provide workers with more workplace flexibility, while still focusing on the remote employee experience.
“It’s counterintuitive,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Modern Work at Microsoft. “You have to design your physical space for the people who aren’t there.”
In just the last week, Microsoft’s headquarters saw its occupancy grow to 142% compared to the previous week. For employees that want more than 50% remote working during the week, they must have manager approval.
At Microsoft’s test center The Hive, in-office engineers are adjusting the best way to host virtual meetings by shifting their seating position to create the most optimal teleconference experience. While this is happening, staffers down the hall serve as remote attendees and provide feedback about whether this arrangement is engaging.
From this experiment, engineers have found that small improvements can make a big difference in the distributed experience.
For instance, a conference table was reformatted to a triangle pointing away from the screen, or a semi-circle facing the screen, which helped keep both in-person and remote attendees connected with one another.
Spataro also added that while the company’s executives have been ramping up their metaverse efforts, “you kind of have to crawl before you can move to a fully virtual world.”