Microsoft calls US coronavirus progress ‘disappointing’ in memo to staff

Microsoft is gearing up to gradually reopen more than a dozen offices around the world — but its outlook for the US remains bleak, The Post has learned.

In a Tuesday note to staff detailing its “return to workplace plans,” Microsoft listed 16 countries where it’s eyeing potential reopenings in the coming weeks, including Austria, Denmark, Vietnam, South Korea, Switzerland and New Zealand.

The US, which has suffered from more than 80,000 deaths, wasn’t on the list. “The US data is particularly disappointing, as we are seeing just a handful of states with improving situations,” said the memo to staff, a copy of which was obtained by The Post.

Among the few US states showing improvement are Arkansas, Delaware, New Jersey and New York, said the memo. Microsoft’s headquarters of Washington state— one of the nation’s earliest coronavirus hot spots — “appears to be worsening,” the memo, which was not signed, noted.

In the memo, Microsoft set out five stages for reopening offices that call for “essential” employees to return before their colleagues, many of whom can keep working remotely into the fall.

“Our process of returning onsite will be gradual — more like turning a dial than flipping a switch,” Microsoft said in the note. “While that dial is beginning to slowly move forward for us in certain areas as we open some worksites, we can also dial backward.”

Social distancing will be key, the memo said, and any return to work can be recalled if the situation changes.

“Nothing is set in stone — if the data begins to show adverse effects in an area, or if government regulations change, we will adjust accordingly,” the company said. “The data shows progress across the world, but the situation is fragile, as proven by spikes in some locations,” it said, referencing South Korea.

Microsoft has started reopening offices in China, but working from home is either mandatory or “strongly encouraged” at the majority of its worksites, according to the note.

Microsoft confirmed to The Post that it outlined its current reopening strategy to its global workforce on Monday, adding that most employees will have the option of working from home through October.

“This approach will enable some employees to continue to work from home while others voluntarily return to the Microsoft workplace in stages,” a Microsoft spokesperson told The Post in a statement.

Microsoft is among several big tech firms that have had their staffs work remotely as the coronavirus continued to spread. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has said his company’s employees can work from home permanently if their jobs allow for it, while Facebook is allowing staffers to stay home until the end of the year.

Microsoft staff who do return to offices will have to attest through an “app-based screening” that they will follow social distancing guidelines, don’t have symptoms and haven’t had contact with someone who has the coronavirus in the last 14 days, the memo says.

The company said staff will also be given a “welcome kit” of supplies such as face coverings and hand sanitizer.

“We all play a major role in making sure our workplace is safe for everyone, which includes self-monitoring for COVID-19 symptoms,” the note says.

Source: Read Full Article