Written by Cally Chan, General Manager of Microsoft Hong Kong and Macau
In the midst of numerous and difficult circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, we have made important observations about the future of work, and how and where our employees know they work best. What we’re learning and understanding has led us to use this period of time to grow and evolve our hybrid workplace, building additional capabilities to help our employees, customers and businesses continue to thrive.
The road to our evolved hybrid workplace
Since the beginning of the pandemic, our No. 1 priority has been the well-being and safety of our people. Hybrid workplace model strikes a balance, providing limited additional services at our office for those who choose to return, while supporting those who need to work remotely or feel more comfortable doing so. Our goal is to give employees further flexibility, allowing people to work where they feel most productive and comfortable, while also encouraging employees to work from home as the virus and related variants remain concerning.
To provide employees with transparency and peace of mind, Microsoft developed a Hybrid Workplace Dial that anchors to six defined stages and allows all offices to quickly adjust our work sites depending on health conditions, while also staying data-driven in our decision-making. The dial helps us assign a stage to each of our work sites depending on the current local health data and government guidance. The dial 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 (e.g. 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.
Let’s have a look at our Hong Kong office. We’ve been closely monitoring local health data for months and tracking government requirements to determine when our work sites could safely accommodate additional workers onsite. To meet local social distancing requirements, we have limited capacity in conference rooms, installed sanitizers and cleaning wipes in common areas. Weekly office deep clean is also in place. Online meeting option is always available for employees in all external and internal meetings. We also support employee’s needs and offer flexibility to work remotely and at the workplace, while continue to serve our customers and maintain critical business operations.
Empowering remote productivity remains a requirement that will involve new collaboration tools, robust cloud infrastructure and a new way of thinking about network security. We also recognize that hybrid work presents new challenges like making sure everyone feels included and engaged regardless of role or location. To that end, we’re supporting the hybrid work evolution through innovations within our technology tools to help people navigate both remote and hybrid work environments.
Celebrating Microsoft Wellbeing Day in Asia
Apart from empowering the team with the right technology, it is also of paramount importance to take care of their physical and mental wellbeing. This year, we have launched Wellbeing Days globally where employees can enjoy five additional days off to take care of their wellbeing. April 16 was Microsoft Asia’s Wellbeing Day – all meetings were removed to encourage our colleagues to focus on themselves for a brief reprieve. My team and I hiked up to the Peak on that day for some fresh air and fresh perspective!
We believe that flexibility is essential to maintaining work-life harmony. We strive to give employees additional flexibility to support individual work styles, balance business needs and ensure we live our culture. At our Hong Kong office, we have introduced Friday Afternoon Me Time last year to encourage colleagues to not schedule business meetings on Friday afternoon but to use the quiet time to focus on work that they prefer, to learn or to recharge.
Although we don’t know how far off a new normal is, I am confident that with our growth mindset and empathy, we can create a safe, collaborative and empowering hybrid workplace for our employees, and continue to empower our customers and partners to reimagine the post-Covid business world.