Archive from July, 2021

Do you have a Long Outstanding Permanent Residence – What are my options

Do you have a Long Outstanding Permanent Residence – What are my options

Is Legal Action the way to go – Class Action vs individual Court Action
Class Action appears cheaper way but has more consequences to applicant than individual court action . Whilst class action hits the newspapers etc it pushes Home Affairs into a corner and they need to deliver against a court deadline a decision but it may not be what you expect . It could be a rejection . For example an older pending application with an expired visa will lead to a rejection .
We choose individual court action , it is not that expensive , Home affairs is not embarrassed in public media and often gives our clients the latitude to update any expired documents and generally the outcome is successful if application is fully compliant .
Contact us for options .
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Sa Migration International

Everything South Africans need to know when they migrate to these 3 countries

Everything South Africans need to know when they migrate to these 3 countries
IOL – 30 July 2021
Deciding on moving to another country isn’t a choice you make overnight.
While South Africa offers vast travel options and has some of the most welcoming people, many South Africans migrate to other countries for better opportunities and travel options.
Here are three countries popular within the South African market:
Australia has long been a top attraction for South Africans.
Sam Hopwood, Australia and Oceania Region Director at Sable International, said Australia offered open spaces, beaches and mountain ranges, perfect for South Africans who crave the outdoors lifestyle.
That, coupled with their education system, economy and job market, provide many opportunities for people migrating permanently. To qualify, South Africans will need to be sponsored by an employer in Australia and work in an occupation relating to critical skills on the Priority Migration Skilled Occupation List (PMSOL).
“Occupations on this list will be prioritised and processed in as little as four weeks. Alternatively, business owners or investors are encouraged to assess their eligibility against the Business and Innovation visas subclass 188, aimed at people under the age of 55 with a successful business ownership career,” explained Hopwood.
Application costs can range for Employer Sponsored visas from $2,690-$4115 (R39 123-R59 854). The Business and Innovation subclass 188 application fees are $6,085 (R88 509)
United Kingdom
The UK is home to many South African expat communities and offers many attractive options for them.
For example, if you become a legal resident of the UK, you’ll have access to the National Health Service and free healthcare. Then, there are the travel options.
Offering access to Europe and other international destinations, South Africans can travel to their heart’s content.
The school and work options are pretty solid, with a demand for skilled workers increasing every year.
John Dunn, Citizenship and Immigration Director at Sable International, said visas for leisure travel were suspended, but all the settlement categories were open.
“An online application must be made, as well as an appointment to provide your biometrics. Visas are currently being issued between 15 – 90 days, depending on the visa category,” he said.
Dunn said the government and health surcharge fees vary between £86 – £3516 (R1 746 to R71 408), depending on the category you apply for.
One of the most overlooked destinations to migrate to is Portugal, but it offers plenty of options for South Africans.
Voted among the safest countries in the world, Portugal boasts a warm Mediterranean climate and a high standard of living.
And, after holding five years of residency in Portugal, people can apply for nationality regardless of visa type held.
Andrew Rissik, Group Commercial Director at Sable International, said the most popular visa’s for Portugal are D7 visas.
“Visa’s must be applied for through VFS Global. You will be able to find the relevant application form on their website, along with a list of the required documents, which is dependent on the visa type.
“From the time of application, it could take around 3 – 4 months to receive a long-stay visa valid for four months, which is converted to a 2-year temporary residency permit after the initial appointment at the Immigration office in Portugal,” he advised.
Rissik said the Golden Visa requires a minimum investment and a minimum required amount of stay in Portugal.
“This is the most flexible type of visa that allows you to work towards nationality while remaining in your home country,” he added.
The D7 visa price is R1659, subject to meeting the legislated minimum income amounts.
The Golden Visa minimum investment is from €280 000 (R4.8-million). Further application costs are dependent on each family structure.

Can I apply for a child grant if my partner isn’t South African?

Can I apply for a child grant if my partner isn’t South African?
News24 – 30 / 07 /2021
*The short answer*
You can apply for the child /parent/child_7-12 support grant if your partner> is a refugee or permanent resident.
*The long answer*
If you are a South African citizen, or a refugee or a permanent resident, you can apply to SASSA for a child support grant. It is a means-tested grant, so SASSA will take into account both your own and your husband’s income. These are the SASSA rules:
* The primary caregiver must be a South African citizen, permanent resident or refugee,
* Both the applicant and the child must reside in South Africa,
* The applicant must be the primary caregiver of the child/children concerned,
* The child/children must have been born after 31 December 1993,
* The applicant and spouse must meet the requirements of the means test. (If you’re a single arent you must not earn more than R48,000 a year, or R4,000 a month. If you’re married then your combined income should not be above R96,000 a year, or R8,000 a month.),
* Applicants can not apply for more than six non-biological children,
* The child cannot be cared for in a state institution.
How to apply for the Child Support Grant:
You must complete a form at the SASSA office in the presence of a SASSA officer,
You will then be given a receipt once the application is complete. This receipt must be kept safe as it is your only proof of registration, Provide the birth certificate of the child, Provide identification documents of the caregiver, Once your grant is approved you will be paid from the date on which you applied,
You will be issued with a SASSA payment card and this card is used to access the money; however, you may request to receive the payments using alternative methods. Such as at banks including Postbank or other institutions.
When you come in to apply, you need to bring the following documents: Your South African identity document (ID), which must be bar-coded,
The child’s birth certificate, which must have an ID number, Your salary slip, bank statements for 3 months, or pension slips, and any other proof of income,

If you’re unemployed, your Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) card – “blue book” – or a discharge certificate from your previous employer,
Information that shows that you’re the child’s primary caregiver. If your application is refused, you can appeal. Usually, you can apply for the child support grant on a Wednesday and Thursday at the SASSA offices, but under the new lockdown conditions
this may have changed, and you should contact SASSA to find out, on their toll-free number on 0800 601 011 or 013 754 9428 / 54 from 8am to 4pm, Monday to Friday.
The fact that your husband is a foreigner should not affect your application for a child support grant, as long as your joint income is not more than R8,000 a month.

South Africans are using Montenegro to avoid UK red list – here’s why it’s a great option

South Africans are using Montenegro to avoid UK red list – here’s why it’s a great option
Business Insider SA – 29 Jul 2021
• South Africans have been among the most restricted travellers in the world during the pandemic.
• And restrictions for those wanting to travel or return to the United Kingdom have been particularly onerous.
• But wily travellers have found loopholes in the system – mostly by choosing to stop over in countries not on the UK’s red list.
• Mexico and West Africa quickly emerged as viable options.
• But it’s the Balkans, and in particular Montenegro, that seem to be winning out at the moment.
• Here’s why Montenegro is worth a visit – whether or not you’re planning on using it to dodge red list restrictions.
South Africans have been among the most restricted travellers in the world since the creation of Covid-19 travel “red lists”.
Although most African countries have remained open for leisure travel with no quarantine restrictions, those wishing to visit Europe – or even return home to countries such as the UK – often face at least 11 days of self-funded isolation on arrival.
But those wanting to avoid lengthy and expensive quarantine hotel stays on arrival in England – often in tiny airport hotel rooms – have been looking for loopholes almost since the restrictions began.
Mexico, the Maldives, and a handful of countries in West Africa have all allowed travellers to holiday for several days without quarantining on arrival in the United Kingdom at various stages in the pandemic. And although governments have been playing a game of whack-a-mole trying to shut these loopholes down, Montenegro has emerged as one of the most popular and reliable stepping stones.
With its sparkling Adriatic coastline, fjord-like natural features, fascinating history, reasonable prices, and easy access, the Balkan country is also a viable tourism destination in its own right.
Although South Africans with valid Schengen visas can enter Montenegro for 30 days visa-free, it’s a destination that has flown under the radar for local travellers – often losing out to more popular coastal destinations like Greece, and even neighbouring Croatia.
But time it right, and it’s a destination that ticks several travel boxes – including one of the most spectacular train rides in Europe that costs just a handful of coins.
Although not the capital (that title belongs to inland Podgorica), Kotor is the primary attraction for most visitors to Montenegro.
Its old town is defined by stone buildings and cobbled streets that hide cosy bars and decent restaurants. The town fronts directly onto a shimmering bay, and small harbour, that’s popular among cruise ships.
Rising up above it all is an old defensive wall, built by the Illyrians, that offers spectacular views of the city and bay.
A short – and cheap – bus ride away from Kotor is photogenic Perast. It has made its way into many Instagram feeds and tourism brochures, and for good reason. There you’ll find a selection of tourist-centric restaurants and boats waiting to take you out into the bay.
One of the key attractions in the bay is the artificial islet Our Lady of the Rocks, where you’ll find a 17th-century Roman Catholic church.
A walk up the switchback path opposite the old town of Kotor also delivers constantly shifting views – most notably of the fjord-like mountains.
Although often called Europe’s southernmost fjord, the Bay of Kotor is instead an ancient drowned river valley that geomorphologists call a ria.
fascinating front – that of its turbulent past. The abandoned Fort Vrmac, built in the late 1800s during the reign of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is beautifully preserved. Although officially closed to the public, entry points exist for those brave enough to explore its dark, damp, and at times, treacherous labyrinthine interior.
Further down the Montenegrin coast are several other resort towns worth visiting – if not for an extended stay, at least for a day trip. Many come to life during the warmer summer months when tourists, most notably from Russia, come to enjoy the sparkling waters and a sense of opulence. At other times, towns like Budva are understated and all but abandoned.
The town of Bar is famous mostly for its train station that is the starting or ending point for one of the country’s – and continent’s – most sensational train rides. But a day there delivers several underrated attractions, such as an olive tree purported more than 2,000 years old.
From Bar, it’s possible to take perhaps one of Europe’s most dramatic train journeys inland to the capital, or further into neighbouring Serbia. Often ironically called the Montenegro Express it’s not a journey for those in a rush, nor for those concerned about heights, stuffy carriages, and the occasional rusted bridge strut. But for just a handful of coins, the train ride delivers some of the most incredible high-altitude railway scenery imaginable – particularly if you time it during Autumn.
The train route was initially built to run Tito’s Blue Train, which now languishes in a storage facility in Belgrade. Over the course of the journey between Bar and Belgrade, the train goes through 254 tunnels and crosses 435 bridges, including the Mala Rijeka Viaduct, which at the time was the highest of its kind in the world.
Getting into Montenegro
South Africans need a passport valid for at least three months after arrival in Montenegro. A visa is required for entry – which can be obtained at the Serbian consulate in Pretoria. But holders of a valid visa issued by Ireland, the United Kingdom, the United States, or any Schengen member state, are allowed 30 days of visa-free entry.
British nationals are allowed a visa-free stay of up to 90 days.
At the time of publication, arriving travellers in Montenegro must have a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours or travel or have been fully vaccinated 14 days prior to arrival.
Getting to Montenegro
There is no direct flight from South Africa to Montenegro.
Several airlines route via European hubs, but the fastest route between the two countries is on Turkish Airlines. The best option departs Johannesburg on Saturday evening, requires a connection in Istanbul, and arrives in Podgorica before 9AM the next morning.
Depending on dates and routes, flights cost between R10,000 and R14,000 return to South Africa – and roughly the same if you continue on to the United Kingdom with no South African return leg.
Avoiding quarantine
Montenegro is currently on the United Kingdom’s Amber List. Provided travellers remain in this region for 10 days, it should be enough to avoid South Africa’s red list status.
According to UK government regulations, prior to travel unvaccinated travellers arriving in England must have booked and paid for two future Covid-19 tests. On arrival in England unvaccinated travellers must present a negative Covid test.
Travellers from Amber regions do not have to quarantine at a government-mandated facility – but must quarantine in the place they are staying for 10 days – and take the Covid-19 tests on days two and eight.

Corporate visas can fix seasonal farm labour shortages

South African farmers who operate their businesses close to the country’s borders with neighbours such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho, where sources of labour including semi-skilled workers abound, can apply for a bulk visa to import labour when required.
“It is crucial that farmers who want to apply to the Department of Home Affairs (“DHA”) and the Department of Labour (“DOL”) for a Corporate Visa, can prove that they first sought out unemployed South Africans for the positions”,
Bulk approval to import skills
The DHA’s Corporate Visa allows farmers to obtain bulk approval for groups of between 50 and 1,000 labourers or more to enter and work in South Africa for a period of up to three years at a time after which a renewal is required. Once this visa has been approved, workers are issued with a certificate which allows them, on presentation, to have their passports endorsed with the relevant corporate visa.
“The farmer may only need the workers on a seasonal basis but the three year validity of this visa ensures that they do not have to reapply every season when the labourers are needed on the farm,” Jacobs explains.
The visa is particularly useful for the agricultural sector, which often struggle to find local labour to fill temporary posts as seasonal workers, as many people may take the job for a month or two but then resign for personal reasons, or at times because they have found a more permanent position elsewhere.
Neighbouring country’s labour pool
There are generally large communities of people living outside towns in neighbouring countries who are seeking seasonal jobs on farms. This visa allows the farmer to apply and bring them to SA to fill specific posts of pickers, packers and sorters, for example, using a single bulk visa application. The labourers themselves do not have to worry about the application as it is entirely handled by the farms’ human resources department, which will usually outsource the process to a reputable immigration specialist with experience in the process.
Farmers have historically handled the visa application in-house, but in recent years many have opted to outsource it to a specialist to ensure a smooth and swift process.
“It is a cumbersome process, so farmers prefer to focus on their core business and to leave a specialist to handle the paperwork, which involves liaising with both the Department of Labour and the Department of Home Affairs,” Jacobs says.
As part of the process, the DOL will inspect the farm to ensure that the business is compliant with labour laws and minimum wage requirements, to ensure there is no exploitation or attempt to attract cheap labour. The DOL will also require evidence from the farmer that there has been an attempt to seek out and employ local labourers, before turning to neighbouring countries as well as an ongoing attempt to increase their local labour count.
Apply now to avoid delays
The Corporate Visa takes as long as six to 12 Months months to obtain, from initial submission of the paper work to approval. It is advisable to consult an immigration specialist in advance to obtain the best advice and practical assistance regarding filing an application.
“This is a very attractive visa because it helps farmers solve their labour shortage challenges with one application and it provides peace of mind that they are compliant for at least three years. The visa is renewable after three years so if the farm has grown, and there is still no local labour available, or the business has expanded and still needs the workers to complement its local workforce, the departments will assess the situation and renew the visa,” Jacobs concludes.
If you are looking for advice on Agricultural Corporate Visas, please feel free to contact us

The 8 most in-demand IT jobs in South Africa right now

Xpatweb has released its 2020/21 Critical Skills Survey Report, which details the eight most sought-after jobs in the IT sector right now. The survey is conducted annually across a wide range of multi-national and corporate companies in South Africa to determine and assess the pressure points that human resource and global mobility practitioners face in sourcing critically skilled individuals when seeking to fill posts locally.

“As big data, robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning and the internet of things rapidly shape the way of doing business, which often makes the difference between those competitors that survive the transition from the third industrial revolution into the 4IR and those that ultimately fail, sourcing these skills is a priority that cuts across all sectors.

The eight most-sought after professions:
• IT application developers
• Data analysts
• Data scientists
• Software developers
• Software engineers
• IT program managers
• Digital skills
• Network architects

Xpatweb explained that some businesses were so desperate for ICT skills that 17% indicated they were seeking qualified yet still inexperienced professionals, while another 17% were seeking those with one to three years of experience and 38% wanted to recruit staff with three to five years of experience. A total of 28% of respondents required ICT professionals with more than five years of experience.

The importance of qualified professionals

Highlighting the skills shortage impact on their businesses, 94% of organisations reported that qualified data scientists are an occupation that was critical to their ongoing operational success. A further 94% of organisations reported a similar need for qualified software developers, while 89% of organisations were in need to recruit data analysts to ensure their ongoing operational success.

According to a 2019 survey by the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), South Africa has a chronic shortage of ICT professionals. The survey listed the top ten hard to fill occupational vacancies in firms in the media, information, and communication technology sector:

1. Software developer (1,131 vacant posts)
2. Computer network and systems engineer (352)
3. ICT systems analyst (316)
4. Programmer analyst (165)
5. ICT security specialist (150)
6. Business analyst (126)
7. Multimedia designer (121)
8. Advertising specialist (106)
9. Database designer and administrator (91)
10. Telecoms network engineer (91)

Moreover, according to IITPSA’s survey, the demographic of the average ICT professional has remained the same over the past 12 years.

Microsoft: Remote work is exhausting and we need to take action now

The first annual Microsoft Work Trend Index should be a wake-up call for bosses and software developers alike to improve employee experiences as offices reopen.
The majority of people want flexible remote work to continue, but new research from Microsoft warns leaders that they’re out of touch with exhausted employees and need to plan if hybrid work is to be successful. Otherwise, they will lose staff — especially Gen Z workers.
There have been plenty of smaller-scale studies showing how working habits, attitudes to remote work and plans for the future have changed during the pandemic, but the scale of Microsoft’s Work Trend Index — interviews with over 30,000 people across 31 countries, plus analysis of trillions of mails, messages, Teams meetings and other activity across Microsoft 365 and LinkedIn — lends it more weight.
Indeed, with the data representing “a global and cross-industry view on how work is changing”, Microsoft will be using it to guide product development and even reorganise some of its own offices, Kamal Janardhan, general manager of Microsoft 365 Insights told TechRepublic.
Remote trade-offs
Microsoft’s Kamal Janardhan: “The flexibility and agility is something that people appreciate, and it’s here to stay.”
Obviously, remote work is a major topic. “The theme of the pandemic is that the entire world participated in this work-from-home experiment, and it became a norm essentially,” Janardhan said. “For a lot of people it used to be ‘can we even do that as an organisation?’ and now it’s the norm — of course we can.”
Although it varies by country, industry and what job you have, the interest in remote work is strong, despite the drawbacks. Nearly three-quarters (73%) of workers in the survey want the option of flexible remote work to continue, and 46% plan to move because of that flexibility.
“The flexibility and agility is something that people appreciate, and it’s here to stay,” Janardhan maintains. “This is going to be the new way of working [that] is actually going to [bring] better culture, more inclusion. The human need to accommodate each other is something that creates connection, and all of us should think about how we accommodate each other in this new way of working.”
The good news is that 40% of workers feel they can finally bring their full selves — complete with pets, family members and the worries they might share, along with a few tears — to work without embarrassment, the way employees have been promising they could all along. People who have those closer interactions report higher productivity as well as better wellbeing and stronger work relationships.
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That’s much harder for Black and Latino workers in the US, Microsoft notes in the report: these groups find it slightly harder to build relationships with their team, feel less included and are less likely to feel they can be themselves.
But with lines between work and home blurring, we’ve lost what Janardhan calls “cognitive white space” — travelling to work or dropping children off at school might mean traffic jams, but it also provides a transition that the ‘virtual commute’ in Teams might not fully replicate.
Teams meetings last longer — 45 minutes rather than 35 the year before — and people are in more meetings, (with almost two-thirds of those not being scheduled in advance), adding up to 2.5x more time in meetings. They also send 45% more chat messages and do 42% more chats out of business hours. Despite all the pressures of the past year and the fact that remote work should allow for asynchronous work styles, people aren’t stepping away from work: just like the year before, 50% of people respond within five minutes in a Teams chat.
It’s not just Teams: 66% more people are creating documents that would presumably have been conversations before, and just among Exchange Online commercial and education customers, 40.6 billion more email messages were sent in February 2021 than in February 2020.

Image: Microsoft
Trying to make up for not being in the same room as people by spending so much of the time in Teams interactions may be why 54% of people feel overworked and 39% are downright exhausted. Despite options like Together mode, the combination of the urgent feeling of virtual meetings and the lack of social cues and body language creates ‘digital static’ that makes it harder to communicate and understand what other people mean. That leads to fatigue, anxiety and even less of a feeling of connection.
We’re spending more time with those we work closely with, but much less time with the broader network of people. Messages in Teams channels that the whole group can see are down 5%, while private and small group chats are up 87%. Some of that back channel is positive — attempts to replicate those physical interactions, Janardhan suggests. “Previously it was rude to chat while you were in the meeting, and now it’s the norm, because this is how people exchange things that were previously available only through body language. I would lean over to the person next to me and say ‘really?’ or I would smile. Now we do that in the chat.”
More about Windows
Feeling included correlates with feeling productive and collaborating, coming up with new ideas and thinking strategically — the things that contribute to creativity and innovation, which are under threat. “Innovation is defined by the things that you create together as a community. This risk to innovation is caused by the fact that when we look at how people are interacting with each other, the level, the depth of their conversations, the time they spend, the team bonds and networks are diminishing,” Janardhan warns.
Close-knit groups can be supportive, but they can also be silos of groupthink with no new ideas, Microsoft researcher Nancy Baym (who studies social connections) cautions in the report. “Bumping into people in the office and grabbing lunch together may seem unrelated to the success of the organization, but they’re actually important moments where people get to know one another and build social capital. They build trust, they discover common interests they didn’t know they had, and they spark ideas and conversations.”
It’s worst for Gen Z: 60% of 18-25s (who may be living alone or lack the space and money to create a good home workspace) say they’re surviving rather than thriving, or flat-out struggling. They find it harder to balance work and life, they’re more likely to feel exhausted after work, they don’t feel engaged because they can’t suggest new ideas or even get a chance to talk in meetings and they have fewer opportunities to make up for that and grow their career by networking because they can’t connect with people casually at work. “They feel like the outlook is worse than ever on feeling engaged and excited about work, career advancement, being included in conversations and meetings, wellbeing and productivity,” Janardhan notes.
Those downsides are why 67% of people want more in-person time with their colleagues as well as working remotely.

There’s a disconnect between how business leaders and various groups of employees are coping with remote working.
Image: Microsoft
Overoptimistic leaders
Even though two-thirds of employers talk about converting offices into hybrid work locations, they seem to be out of touch with how much this matters. Business leaders are mostly male, information workers and either Gen X or millennials and they’re thriving (61%, up over 20% from pre-pandemic), reporting better relationships with colleagues and their own bosses and taking all of their vacation days or even a few extras. “However, their employees are actually saying that they’re tired — the time spent in meetings has almost tripled, and it’s still increasing.”
Women, frontline workers, those with less career progress and especially Gen Z are struggling — and 37% of all staff say their company is asking too much of them. A fifth say their employer doesn’t care about their work-life balance.
“This dissonance between how leaders are seeing what’s happening and how individuals and teams are feeling is really key,” Janardhan warns.
One problem is that leaders are more isolated than before the pandemic. “What we see with leaders is that they’re often focused on talking to that core group a lot. Previously they had all-hands meetings or company parties: the large gathering is exactly what the pandemic took away from us, it’s something they no longer have access to so they become more siloed,” Janardhan explains.

Image: Microsoft
Companies advertising more roles as remote work (a 5x increase in remote job postings on LinkedIn) aren’t always investing in what staff need to make that work: 42% of employees say they’re missing some ‘office essentials’ and one in ten say their internet connection at home isn’t good enough for their work. Worldwide, only 46% of staff get even a portion of remote work expenses paid.
Oblivious leaders may get a rude awakening. Remote flexibility and a lack of support may explain why 41% of employees are now planning to leave their current job within a year. “This is a pretty significant trend increase,” Janardhan notes. “When you look at Gen Z, the younger population that has been in the workforce for less time, that jumps to 54%. How leaders approach this next phase of work will impact who stays, who goes, and who joins the company, and it will significantly impact the bottom line. How do you manage your overall workforce with this churn and transition happening?”
Although Microsoft has some suggestions about using technology to improve the situation, most of the strategies the report suggests are about improving employee experience by being flexible and supportive — and setting the right example.
“This is a pivotal moment in history: we’re on the cusp of the next workforce disruption. Across the board companies are thinking about how they can reinvent themselves,” says Janardhan. “We should resist the urge to see this new way of working, hybrid work, as business-as-usual. It is an opportunity to rethink long-held assumptions, and I’m convinced that if we take the good that’s emerging from this time with us, then we’re going to reinvent for much better workforce [conditions].”
The cultural norms inside companies about hybrid work need to be matched with new thinking about workspaces, Janardhan says. “If entering a certain physical space or exiting it was how you defined working, that’s gone out the window. Organisations have all these cultures about ‘when did you badge and when did you badge out, how long did you work?’ That will have to evolve for this new type of working that is more individual, more empowered, more trusting, but also needs to have guardrails in place to be effective.”
Both expectations and technology will need to change to make hybrid work successful, Janardhan suggests. “If you do back-to-back meetings because you have no need to commute from one place to another, you’re going to be exhausted. It was typical, when you walk to a meeting room, to visit the restroom or get a drink of water and have a conversation. If you eliminate that, that’s going to be the opposite of productive for every human being for every team. You can’t write the best document or the best code if you aren’t creating the right cognitive, critical space for deep work and collaboration work.”
The new Viva Insights tool can be helpful, Janardhan notes. “We’re finding people are eager to set things like ‘this is my focus time, this is my deep work time, this is my after-hours time’. That creates the courtesy culture you previously got from in-person interactions. I could see someone was heads-down, working at their desk, and I wouldn’t interrupt. Bringing that sort of human sense into Teams standards is a huge part of this.”
But combating the exhaustion of remote work doesn’t mean lecturing people about taking a break — it has to come from the top down. “You can’t have individuals saying ‘we should have protected after-hours time’ if you don’t have leaders creating the structure by saying ‘I will have certain times where I will engage and interact with the team and those will meet the guardrails and the norms of effective work/life scheduling’.”
If companies introduce extra wellness days (Microsoft has added five extra days of time off for employees), leaders need to show that it’s OK to use them by taking time off and encouraging staff to do the same. They should also encourage people to take time to network and connect, for fun as well as for work, because that’s not an unproductive distraction. “Embrace the asynchronous collaboration, create a culture of breaks and interaction space for human interaction versus just transactional,” says Janardhan.
“We’re human, we will always have to meet — we will just do it more intentionally on our own terms, with more flexibility,” she adds.

Image: Microsoft
Rebuilding the office
The culture change includes rethinking the spaces people work in, because while many employees want both face-to-face time and the opportunity to work remotely at least some of the time, they’re not positive about hybrid meetings. “Meetings where everyone’s online: everyone rated those as the most inclusive. Meetings where everyone’s in person are next, and the meetings with some online and some in person were the least inclusive,” Janardhan tells TechRepublic.
“Physical spaces have often been just a holding ground for people to get transactional work done. If you create rich collaboration — for example extending the whiteboarding capabilities in Teams to a physical space — you get a very different kind of physical space.”
Microsoft already has about 20% of its global employees back in offices and other locations in 21 countries, and plans to slowly reopen its Redmond headquarters to staff from March 29. Last year the company said that in the long run it will be standard for employees whose job doesn’t need them to be in a specific location like a data centre or a hardware lab to work remotely up to 50% of the time if they want. That’s already common for some groups like Azure DevOps, which has team members in several different countries, but a much bigger shift for teams like Windows, which has traditionally required employees to move to Seattle. For now, though, employees working in and near Redmond will be able to choose if they want to return to the office, carry on working remotely, or combine the two.
Previously, the campus has been at stage three of Microsoft’s hybrid workplace classing, with working from home strongly encouraged. On March 29 it shifts to stage four, a soft opening. “Employees are encouraged to work remotely” a letter from executive vice president Kurt DelBene says. They “should not feel they need to return” but can “work where they feel most productive and comfortable”. Precautions on campus will include “social distancing of workspaces, face coverings, extensive cleaning procedures, daily health attestations, attendance strategies and more”.
In other Microsoft locations at stage four, less than a third of employees are in the office for half of their working week and more than half are only there 25% of the time. If conditions worsen, the dial could shift back to a more restrictive level and Microsoft won’t remove those measures until COVID-19 is more like a seasonal flu than a pandemic.
The company is also building prototype hybrid meeting spaces in Redmond and its UK offices, experimenting with multiple screens, cameras and mixed reality scenarios to try and make meetings equally inclusive for remote workers and people in the room. That might look like the spacious offices Microsoft has shown in the Viva launch video, with a curved row of tables and wall-sized screens with a filmstrip view of remote attendees that puts everyone face to face, or something more like Microsoft Mesh mixed reality. Either way, offices and meeting rooms will need to be appealing spaces that are more attractive than staying home.
Software will be an important part of this, because it can help create habits and culture as well as simply enabling report work, and Janardhan is keen to see technology that better supports people. “My hope is that we and absolutely every single software company start thinking about the reinvention of employee experience. This is the rising tide that should raise all ships: we should change the way we think about software and service of that human endeavour.”