Microsoft’s Satya Nadella says companies forcing employees back to the office amid rise in Covid delta cases are ‘shortsighted’

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella told CNBC on Thursday that companies should use data to determine when and how employees return to work, calling companies that claim to have found an answer “shortsighted.”

Earlier in the day, Microsoft announced it has pushed back its reopening indefinitely due to concerns about the Covid-19 delta variant. The company last month postponed its reopening plan from Sept. 7 to Oct. 4.

“I’m looking forward to the entire world overcoming this challenge, because until we do so any particular company, region thinking they’ve found the answer, I think will just be shortsighted,” he said in an interview with CNBC’s “TechCheck.”

Microsoft joins several other technology companies, including Amazon, Facebook and Google, that have pushed back reopenings amid rising case numbers.

Nadella also highlighted the company’s recent Work Trend Index, which found that feelings of inclusivity and managerial support are high among employees at the company. But, while many workers want the flexibility of remote work, they desire in-person connections with colleagues, a phenomenon the company calls the hybrid work paradox.

“Sometimes we think about this pandemic or the impact of it one region at a time, but it’s a connected world,” Nadella said. “One thing we decided is from now on, we will just use data to really talk about any particular region being open.”

Microsoft also announced it’s rolling out new Teams app features in 2022, which it hopes can improve the experience of meeting with colleagues remotely. The features include an AI camera that can detect who is speaking and the ability to integrate a Teams camera feed with PowerPoint.

Although software can help managers accommodate employee preferences, it does have its limits, Nadella warned.

“The connection between the employee and the company’s mission, their leader and the team, I think is going to be the new currency,” he said. “So that I think is also a place where technology and data can help.”

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