The big picture: As 2020 showed us, there are plenty of pros and cons to working remotely versus going into the office each day. Not having to get dressed and commute to and from work is no doubt a perk, but many realized that they missed the camaraderie of mingling with co-workers and the structure that a traditional office job affords.

Microsoft was among the first major tech giants to send employees home to work remotely during the onset of the pandemic a year ago. Redmond used the year away from the office to learn more about its employees and how they work best, ultimately resulting in a hybrid workplace model.

As it stands today, nearly two dozen of Microsoft's work sites around the globe (representing around 20 percent of its global employee population) have reached levels that meet or exceed local government guidelines to accommodate more in-person workers. And soon, the hybrid work policy will be implemented at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters and nearby campuses.

The hybrid workplace model strikes a balance between safety and productivity. With the Redmond facility in particular, those who elect to return to on-site work will have access to additional services on campus.

Conversely, employees that feel more productive or comfortable working from home have the freedom to continue to exercise that option.

After realizing that trying to provide guidelines based on specific timelines wasn't working, Microsoft came up with a "hybrid workplace dial" that can be applied at each work site based on a variety of factors including local health data and government regulations.

The planned March 29 shift at Microsoft's Redmond locations will represent a move from stage three to stage four on the dial. Each facility in stages one through five will still be subjected to pandemic protocols including social distancing, face masks, extensive cleaning and daily health monitoring.

"Though we don't know how far off a new normal is, we are adapting to a new way of working with an expanded understanding of flexibility," said Kurt DelBene, executive vice president at Microsoft. "We know there are thousands of ways of working - in the last year our employees have shown what is possible - and we believe that flexibility is essential to maintaining work-life balance."

Masthead courtesy JeanLuclchard