How Microsoft is Empowering a Modern, Sustainable Workplace

By TJ DiCaprio as written on
Since joining Microsoft in 1991, the only constant for Bev Hess has been a remote workstyle. Bev started her career as an account rep based in St. Louis, often logging thousands of miles in the car or flying to client sites or meeting with customers over the telephone. She’s held a number of roles in the field, eventually rising to sales management and then pursuing a passion to empower others with better technology, first as a loud voice in the field and now managing a large global team as part of the Microsoft IT organization.
Today, Bev rarely sees many of her 139-person team in person. Her typical day starts with a mere 30-second commute to her home office in California, more than 1,100 miles away from Microsoft’s corporate headquarters in Redmond, Washington. But she’s also connected and productive wherever she may be, whether out walking the dog, running errands, or even training for an upcoming triathlon. She appreciates having the flexibility to blend life as a mom with the challenges of building long-lasting professional relationships and running a high-performance team at one of the world’s largest technology companies. For her, life couldn’t be more balanced.

For Bev, “Skype for Business is my #1 tool. It’s how I start and end my day.

Skype for Business is now the norm for getting things done

Skype for Business has become the equalizing force that is changing how we work. It is not only helping to reinvent productivity, but also helping to decrease the need for commuting and business travel, which is good for our people, our business and the planet.
While Bev has always been successful as a remote employee, she says “I get a lot more done today.” In the days of audio-only tele-conferencing and conference room meetings, meetings would often start without her and “I’m sorry you can’t see this” was an all-too-common apology. These days, Skype for Business has become the norm for how work gets done at Microsoft. And many people meeting her for the first time over Skype don’t know that she—and most of her team members—aren’t in a corporate office.
Skype for Business combines audio and video conferencing, instant messaging, and screen sharing into one app that works on any device. Meet collaboratively one-on-one or with hundreds of people, or broadcast meetings to thousands of people.
Today Bev can’t imagine working without Skype. She hires people over Skype, conducts people reviews over Skype, and even occasionally fires people on Skype. “If someone isn’t comfortable getting hired without meeting their manager in person, they simply aren’t a fit for my team.” This way of doing business has also helped her to retain great people that needed to change location or workstyle—all while empowering them to be just as effective as they could be in a corporate office. For example, she recently hired a young data scientist in France that has lectured at MIT and is considered a rising star in her field.

“I think the Microsoft work culture and technology environment is what has enabled me to attract such exceptional talent.”

All told, Bev’s team is spread over 23 countries. To accommodate team members in various time zones, her workday commonly spans from 5 AM to 10 PM, though she hardly notices. She benefits through a flexibility to interweave her professional and personal lives, and Microsoft benefits by getting twice the availability of a typical 9–5 office worker. She also works to be open and available and sets aside time each week as open “office hours” for her team to drop by virtually via Skype and talk about anything.
Her team represents a perfect example of the modern workplace. While some of her team work in larger offices, many others work in remote or satellite offices with only a handful of employees. Others telecommute from rented office or flex space in their local city. And others, like Bev herself, work on the go, making their home or a hotel room their office. Regardless of where they are, Skype for Business is the equalizing force that empowers every team member to be productive whenever and wherever they may be, helping Microsoft realize greater value from its workforce.


85 percent of Bev’s team—including Bev herself—is located outside of Redmond.


A sustainable way of doing business

At Microsoft, we’re committed to demonstrating environmental leadership. In 2012, we made a commitment to become carbon neutral across our operations, including data centers, development labs, offices, manufacturing, and business air travel. We see Skype as an important component of our environmentally responsible operations and as a catalyst for reshaping how business gets done in the future—at Microsoft and around the world.
For example, many of our people now attend town meetings, our annual Company Meeting, and large conferences virtually. Skype has provided globally-distributed teams the ability to meet more often and more conveniently, helping people stay more connected and also increasing the speed at which we do business.
Skype has also afforded more frequent customer contact, helping lessen the need for on-site travel by our sales teams. Virtual meetings and demos of solution capabilities help ensure sellers remain responsive to our customers’ needs and include all stakeholders, regardless of where they may be. When Bev thinks back to her time as a seller, she sees a night-and-day difference between how she worked back then and how our sales teams work today. “Skype is the catalyst that is enabling us to adopt a more sustainable way of doing business without sacrificing the strong relationships we desire with our customers,” she says.
As virtual meetings become increasingly commonplace, people are spending less time commuting to work and are flying fewer miles to attend remote meetings and events. This reduced need for travel is helping us avoid carbon emissions, which is both good for the environment and good for business. Additionally, as more of our employees work remotely, Skype is effectively helping us to minimize our office space and the emissions associated with our buildings. In fact, the Global e-Sustainability Initiative’s (GeSI’s) SMARTer 2030 report estimates that virtual meetings and working remotely could reduce commuting globally by up to 53 percent and reduce the number of business trips by car or plane by 80 percent by 2030, potentially saving 165 billion liters of fuel from transportation.

Transforming enterprise IT

Skype for Business is an important enabler of a more sustainable way of doing business, helping us to reduce emissions from business air travel as well as emissions in our private data center. For example, as we shift from managing communications in our own facilities to a fully cloud-based Skype for Business environment, we expect to reduce associated data center emissions by 30 to 60 percent per user.
Moving to an IP-based collaboration environment also provides us with an unprecedented ability to analyze and manage our communications infrastructure. Bert Byerly is the Skype for Business service engineer for Microsoft IT and constantly monitors the environment, watching for trends and working to constantly improve service levels. “Reliability is at an all-time high, with call quality now at more than 95 percent,” he reports.

Final thoughts

As Bev thinks back to just how much Skype for Business has helped transform Microsoft into a modern, sustainable workplace, she’s excited to see the role Microsoft is playing in the world, both in empowering people and businesses and helping to reduce carbon emissions with technology.

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