Microsoft is letting some employees know they can begin returning to the office on March 29. The Redmond, Wash., software giant was among the first large employers to require all but essential on-site employees to work from home at the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic.

As the rates of covid-19 have declined in regions around the world, Microsoft has begun letting employees back into its facilities, representing about 20 percent of its workforce, executive vice president Kurt DelBene wrote in a blog post.

Starting next Monday, the company will begin opening its Seattle area office to employees as well, though they can still choose to work remotely, DelBene wrote. The company is requiring social distancing and face coverings for all workers who return to its facilities.

“Our goal is to give employees further flexibility, allowing people to work where they feel most productive and comfortable, while also encouraging employees to work from home as the virus and related variants remain concerning,” DelBene wrote.

As the coronavirus first spread in the United States up the West Coast last March, Microsoft largely shut down its offices, requiring most of its staff to work from home. In May, it extended the work-from-home mandate to October, though it allowed some of its 163,000 workers around the globe to voluntarily return to their offices in stages.

At the time, Microsoft president, Brad Smith, said in an interview the company expects to bring back employees “more slowly rather than more quickly because, economically, we can serve the economy with more remote work than people in many industries can.”

The company joins Google, which outlined a hybrid approach to returning to work last week, letting employees work from home sometimes but come into the office regularly for in-person meetings. The web-search giant said it plans to spend billions on both offices as well as expanding data centers for its computing operations.