Microsoft’s chief executive has warned against the total transition to working from home during the pandemic, saying it would be “replacing one dogma with another dogma”.
Satya Nadella, who has served at the helm of Microsoft since 2014, said it was “best not to get overly dogmatic” about where employees can work, despite the world’s top companies encouraging staff not to go into the office for the foreseeable future.
Microsoft has seen shares soar more than 52 per cent since the start of the pandemic, with the US tech giant reporting quarterly revenue in July more than $1bn ahead of Wall Street’s forecasts.
The global shift online during the coronavirus crisis added $269.9bn to Microsoft’s market capitalisation, making it the second-most prosperous tech company during the pandemic after Amazon.
The company cashed in on its cloud computing software and communications app Teams, which was used by 75m people a day in April — up from 20m in late 2019.
However, Nadella today said companies should adopt a “grounded approach” to working from home policies.
“If 30 or 40 per cent of the world can work from home, the rest of us should go to work,” the tech boss told the Wall Street Journal CEO Council.
“We are all burning some amount of social capital — all of the connections we usually have at work, we don’t have those, we don’t run into people.”
Nadella said Microsoft has tried to incorporate daily routines into its software to improve the “mental health” of people working from home, including building in virtual commutes to its Teams app to “give you those cognitive breaks between meetings”.
“Commutes — they were painful and annoying, but it turns out that they were important transition times,” he said.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month U-turned on previous advice to “return to work where possible”, instead urging employees to work from home “for at least six months” to quell a spike in infections across the UK.
Major firms including Google, Natwest and Deutsche Bank have subsequently informed staff not to return to the office until at least 2021, while others look at making working from home a permanent option.
A survey of around 1,000 firms released last week by the Institute of Directors (IoD) showed that that three-quarters plan on keeping current working from home policies beyond the pandemic.
Meanwhile, more than half of businesses surveyed said they were mulling plans to reduce long-term leases of office space.
But Johnson’s orders to work from home has fallen on deaf ears in the capital, with London businesses continuing to see greater numbers of staff returning to the office since the nationwide lockdown in March.
Research by data specialists Huq Industries released last week showed a five per cent jump in workplace attendance in the capital in the week ending 27 September.