Microsoft executive says workers slept in data centers during lockdown

Microsoft employees slept in the software company’s data centers during the height of the coronavirus pandemic, an executive said Wednesday.

While many of the major tech companies ordered their employees to work from home after Covid showed up in the US in 2020, some employees were so important that they had to work on site. That was the case for a few who worked in the locations that contain the servers for online services like Microsoft Teams, as well as the public cloud infrastructure that powers third-party client applications.

“I heard amazing stories about people actually sleeping in data centers,” said Kristen Roby Dimlow, corporate vice president of total rewards, performance and HR business insights, during a conversation with Morgan Stanley analysts Josh Baer and Mark Carlucci. “In certain countries there was a big lockdown, so our own employees opted to sleep in the data center because they were worried about getting stuck in a roadblock trying to get back home.”

Generally, data centers are not places where people sleep. Aisles can be hot from the air coming out of the servers and cold from the air conditioning to prevent machines from overheating. A Microsoft spokesperson did not say where or how many employees slept in the data centers.

The company changed various aspects of work in its data centers due to the pandemic, said Noelle Walsh, corporate vice president of the company’s Cloud Operations and Innovation group, in an interview with CNBC in April.

Employees were allowed to work from home if they felt eager to go to data centers, Walsh said. If people didn’t want to take the bus, the company provided transportation to and from data centers and even allowed people to stay in hotels, he said.

“In some cases, we had to go to work in shifts, day and night, to get work done on the same schedule,” Walsh said.

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