Microsoft employees have started returning to corporate headquarters in recent weeks. The tech giant’s post-pandemic era hybrid approach aims to provide workers with greater flexibility in the workplace, while 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 people who aren’t there.”
Last week alone, Microsoft headquarters saw its occupancy rate rise to 142% from the previous week. For employees who want more than 50% remote work during the week, they must have manager approval.
At Microsoft’s The Hive test center, on-duty engineers adjust the best way to host virtual meetings by altering their seating position to create the most optimal teleconferencing experience. While this is happening, staff members down the hall serve as remote participants and provide feedback on the engagement of this arrangement.
From this experience, engineers discovered that small improvements can make a big difference in the distributed experience.
For example, a conference table was reformatted into a triangle pointing away from the screen, or a semi-circle facing the screen, which kept in-person and remote participants connected to each other.
Spataro also added that if company executives ramp up their metaverse efforts, “you kind of have to crawl before you can move into a fully virtual world.”