It's a big week for local tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft.
Both companies are making moves to allow more employees to return to work.
After a very long year of working from home, Microsoft’s more than 50,000 employees in Redmond, Bellevue and Seattle have the option of returning to work at its local campuses.
Still, the company encourages employees to work remote for the time being. Microsoft said it wants to offer its workers flexibility.
While the company didn’t specify if it would limit a certain building capacity for employees working in the offices, Microsoft continued to direct me to its blog post from Executive Vice President Kurt Delbene.
In the post, Delbene shared survey data collected from thousands of global employees who’ve already returned to work in some capacity. The data indicated that 54 percent of those surveyed are spending less than 25 percent of their time at one of their work sites.
"Once we reach a point where COVID-19 no longer presents a significant burden on our communities, and as our sites move to the open stage of the dial, we view working from home part of the time (less than 50 percent) as standard for most roles – assuming manager and team alignment," Delbene said. "Now and in the future, we have an opportunity to reexamine traditional notions of aligning particular jobs to particular settings."
KOMO News asked infectious disease experts what they think about these changes to head back to the office.
"Well I think it’s exciting, my question would be are they vaccinated," said Dr. Anna Wald, University of Washington Professor of Medicine and Head of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Division. "To me, I think that’s a critical issue."
Wald said vaccinations will ultimately make working in an office environment much safer. She and Dr. Ali Mokdad with UW's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said employers need to focus on ventilation and masking.
"Improve your filters, whatever filters you are using, follow the CDC guidelines, improve your filters," Mokdad said. "Open the windows if you can. And of course, improve the mask that you are wearing."
Starting next Monday, Facebook said it will be opening its offices in Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond at 10 percent capacity. They don’t have an exact timeline for fully reopening offices quite yet.
Zillow said everyone is still working remotely right now, but the company will announce re-opening plans later this year.
Zillow said it intends for all employees who want or need to go into an office to be able to reserve time to do so when it does re-open the offices. The company adds they plan to hire about 2,000 new employees nationwide in 2021, increasing its total workforce by about 40 percent.
We talked with small business Works Progress Cooperative, a company that offers workers a shared-office environment. While they are still limiting space right now, Founding Board Member Marnee Chua said working around others is good for moral and motivation.
"Our mission has been focused on helping people, help support their business and life goals," Chua said. "A lot of people want to have that hybrid where they are closer to home."