Here’s how Microsoft employees are working remotely during COVID-19 lockdown


The COVID-19 lockdown is an unusual phase when everyone – from the CEO to the new hires – are working remotely. We caught up with Ira Gupta, Head of Human Resources, India – Microsoft and got a glimpse of how the IT giant’s workforce is coping up with the present time, and working virtually.


TimesJobs: How has your workforce responded to/adopted the ‘work-from-home’ regime?

Ira Gupta: We are ensuring that every employee has the tools, resources, and solutions to be as productive, creative, and secure as possible. Now that we find ourselves working remotely, we’ve been able to stay productive because we are accustomed to a digital workspace. All of us at Microsoft use Teams daily for chat, meetings, calls, and collaboration. Every meeting is now a Teams meeting, often with video.

Using our collaboration tools, our employees are working round the clock to support customers, partners and the community. From remote teamwork and learning, to sales and customer service, to critical cloud infrastructure and security, our team is working alongside customers every day to help them stay open for business in a world of remote everything.

For many of our employees, this change is also about being able to build new routines and habits as they adjust to working from home. To support colleagues through this transition, we’ve created resources to guide employees, with tips to stay healthy, engaged and productive during COVID-19. We’ve seen a number of our teams schedule no-agenda ‘tea-breaks’ on a Teams video call. This helps virtualize the water cooler conversation that many miss these days.

TimesJobs: What has been the biggest challenge of remote working and how have you addressed that?
Ira Gupta:
Remote work can create challenges in maintaining a healthy work. Frequent employee communication has been a key principle that we’ve used during this time to ensure employees are heard, leadership is visible, and best practices are shared. Our leadership frequently connects with colleagues through live events, one-on-one conversations or informal catchups. We are encouraging teams, especially leaders to organise no agenda meetings, to connect regularly with colleagues beyond work and encourage sharing of thoughts, ideas, and experiences.

We have put in place several processes to ensure new recruits at Microsoft stay connected, safe and informed. We transitioned from an in-person new employee onboarding (NEO) program to a virtual new employee onboarding to onboard new hires.

TimesJobs: Will you continue with the remote working model even when the lockdown is called off?
Ira Gupta:
At Microsoft, work from home has always been an option for employees. When Microsoft employees need to work remotely, they are empowered to stay productive and connected by using our own productivity tools.

Currently, only a small number of employees who perform essential services continue to be on-site at our offices. We will continue to monitor the situation and take the necessary action.

TimesJobs: Have you devised any special policies to measure/ensure productivity in the COVID-19 times?
Ira Gupta:
We introduced a dedicated 24/7 COVID-19 Medical Advisory Helpline for our employees and their families. Available in multiple languages, employees can use this helpline for virtual consultations with medical practitioners. With schools and childcare facilities staying closed, many colleagues were dealing with the added stress of taking care of their children. We added an additional leave option, the 12-week Paid Pandemic School and Childcare Closure Leave, to give our employees greater flexibility.

To support mental well-being, we are encouraging employees to use Microsoft Cares, a counseling service as part of our benefits program.

TimesJobs: What is your advice to HR teams to connect with the workforce in these trying times?

Ira Gupta: In the last few weeks, there has been an unprecedented change in the way we work, connect, and balance our lives. This change can often seem overwhelming. My learning is that we must seek to understand the needs of our family, colleagues, customers and communities at this time and help them. Being empathetic to everyone around us, understanding their unique situations and being open, flexible and inclusive are some ways we can continue to powerfully back each other.



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