Microsoft told its employees Thursday they can take an additional five paid days off to ease stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Microsoft HR chief Kathleen Hogan said in an email to the company’s employees its senior leadership team is concerned about reports of increased “stress, uncertainty, exhaustion (and) in some cases grief” among the Redmond company’s employees.

“We know… things remain tough due to the ongoing pandemic,” Hogan said in the email, which was obtained by the Business Journal. “Work and life continue to blend, with daily tradeoffs, opportunities and challenges.”

Hogan said Microsoft’s senior leaders met on 12 February and decided to grant employees five additional paid “Wellbeing Days” to take care of themselves.
The benefit is not permanent, according to the email, and employees have until Dec. 31 to take the time off.

“These days are in addition to your vacation, since resting, recharging and refueling are especially needed right now,” Hogan said in the email. “You can use this time to rest, exercise, learn, volunteer or however is most beneficial to you.”

Hogan said Microsoft has been monitoring how its employees are faring during the pandemic through a variety of means, including all-hands meetings, Yammer (Microsoft’s workplace social networking software), the company’s Daily Pulse surveys, inquiries to the HR department and responses to Covid-related emails from senior executives.

Hogan said the company will distribute its annual employee poll Feb. 22.

In addition, Hogan said more than 80% of Microsoft employees are “getting the support you need from your manager to effectively prioritize your work” and encouraged managers to continue that effort so employees are able to take the extra days off.

“The (senior leadership team) recognizes that the past year has posed immense challenges for everyone,” Hogan said. “Each of you matters deeply and we hope these five days provide additional support when you need it most.”

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