San Francisco– Microsoft on Monday announced to slowly reopen its Redmond, Washington-based headquarters and nearby campuses from March 29 with a six-stage hybrid workplace strategy.

The company said that while stages 4 and 5 offer limited or augmented options for workers who choose to be on-site, employees are encouraged to work remotely while their site remains in stages 1-5 and should not feel they need to return.

“In stage 6, Covid-19 is no longer a significant burden on the local community and presents itself more like an endemic virus such as the seasonal flu. In this final stage of the dial, most pandemic-specific work site requirements and prevention measures are removed, enabling nearly all campus services to return,” Kurt DelBene, Executive Vice President, Microsoft, said in a statement.

In the case of the Redmond-based headquarters, the shift planned for March 29 will represent a move on the dial from Stage 3 to Stage 4.

The company said that the hybrid workplace strategy can go in both directions – moving a work site forward when local disease burden improves, and also dialing back when we observe declines in progress.

“Each stage is defined by a set of data-driven criteria (trends in cases and deaths and government guidelines) as well as site readiness assessments, and carries with it a set of prescribed policies and actions,” Microsoft said.

Currently, Microsoft work sites in 21 countries have been able to accommodate additional workers in its facilities – representing around 20 per cent of its global employee population.

Microsoft has over 160,000-strong global workforce.

“At each of our campuses that are in Stages 1-5, we are taking a cautious approach that includes social distancing of workspaces, face coverings, extensive cleaning procedures, daily health attestations, attendance strategies and more,” the company said.

The company has pulled together a group of Microsoft researchers, engineers and real estate and facilities experts to prototype hybrid meeting spaces at its Redmond, Washington, and the UK.

Microsoft, along with other tech giants like Apple, Facebook and Google, allowed its employees to work from home last year as the novel coronavirus pandemic spread in countries around the world. (IANS)