Microsoft announced plans for a "soft opening" of their headquarters Monday, becoming the second major tech company in the Puget Sound region of Washington state to mark a return to the workplace more than a year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced employees home. 

Microsoft Executive Vice President Kurt DelBene wrote in a blog post employees will begin returning to the campus in the city of Redmond on March 29, though they can continue to telecommute.

According to the company, worksites in 21 countries in the state are now able to accommodate workers again, and the transition is now coming to their headquarters.

The software company hires nearly 54,000 workers in the area, making it the region's second-largest tech employer after Amazon.

In October, the company announced a transition to a hybrid workplace model in which some employees will be able to work from home permanently while also maintaining "touchdown" spaces in the office.

When workers return, safety precautions such as social distancing of workspaces, facial coverings, rigorous cleaning procedures, and everyday health attestations will be in place.

Microsoft has also conducted extensive research into the future of remote employment, realizing that higher worker productivity is masking burnout and fatigue, noting the intensity of the workday has increased.

The transition to telecommuting affects generations differently, with Gen Z (ages 18 to 25) having the most difficulty feeling engaged or enthusiastic about work.

The return to the office follows the completion of Phase 3 of the state's reopening strategy, which allows for increased capacity in indoor venues.

Earlier this month, Facebook announced it will reopen offices for workers at a 10% capacity, making it the region's first big tech company to begin in-office work. In the Seattle area, the business employs 5,400 employees.

Some are deferring rehiring workers for a little while, while others are considering more flexible work conditions. Amazon has extended its company workers' work-from-home policy through June 30.