Amazon Staff Push Back At Return-To-Office Order

Staff at Amazon are reportedly unhappy at the recently announced return-to-office mandate, and are using official comm channels to express their dismay.

Last week CEO Andy Jassy used a blog post to demand a return to the office for the “majority” of the company’s 300,000-strong corporate workforce.

As recently as September 2022, Jassy had stated that Amazon would not follow others in the technology industry by ordering its corporate staff to return to the office, in a post Coronavirus world.

Return to office

Workspace management specialist infinitSpace reported last year that a majority of business leaders were struggling to get staff to return to the office.

Indeed, many big name tech firms including Apple, Google and others, have faced significant pushback from their workforce as they sought to bring staff back into the office.

Indeed, one Apple executive publicly resigned over the firm’s order to return to the office earlier in 2022.

In the post Covid-19 world, many tech firms have adopted hybrid working practices, with staff working two or three days in the office, and other days remotely (often at home).

Amazon has now mandated that corporate return to the office at least three days a week – beginning 1 May 2023.

Jassy order

Jassy in his blog post had said that Amazon first thought staff would be back in the office in September 2021, and then by January 2022, with the suggestion that all staff should all try to be in the office at least three days a week.

“For our corporate roles, instead of specifying that people work a baseline of three days a week in the office, we’re going to leave this decision up to individual teams,” wrote Jassy. “This decision will be made team by team at the Director level.”

“We expect that there will be teams that continue working mostly remotely, others that will work some combination of remotely and in the office, and still others that will decide customers are best served having the team work mostly in the office,” wrote Jassy.

“We’re intentionally not prescribing how many days or which days – this is for Directors to determine with their senior leaders and teams,” he wrote. “The decisions should be guided by what will be most effective for our customers; and not surprisingly, we will all continue to be evaluated by how we deliver for customers, regardless of where the work is performed.”

However Jassy added that Amazon wants “most of our people close enough to their core team that they can easily travel to the office for a meeting within a day’s notice.”

He said that Amazon “will continue to offer those corporate employees, who can work effectively away from the office, the option to work up to four weeks per year fully remote from any location within your country of employment.”

Staff pushback

Predictably there has been some staff pushback against the return-to-office mandate.

CNBC reported that Amazon employees continued to sound off Tuesday night, and a group of staffers have spammed an internal website with comments expressing their opposition to the policy.

In addition, an internal Slack channel showed concerns about parenting, caregiving and commuting, and an internal petition has even been drafted, urging Jassy and Amazon’s leadership team, known as the S-team, to drop the mandate.

The group has since amassed 16,000 members, and about 5,000 employees have signed the petition as of Tuesday night, CNBC has reported.

It reported that staff dissatisfaction with the mandate spilled over onto Amazon’s internal news feed for employees, called Inside Amazon, where workers repeatedly commented on a recording of Jassy’s recent all-hands meeting.

“By arbitrarily forcing return-to-office without providing data to support it and despite clear evidence that it is the wrong decision for employees, Amazon has failed its role as earth’s best employer,” according to screenshots viewed by CNBC. “I believe this decision will be detrimental to our business and is antithetical to how we make decisions at Amazon.”

Employees began leaving those comments after Amazon disabled staffers from “liking” or commenting on Jassy’s memo announcing the return-to-office mandate, according to one employee, who asked to remain anonymous.

According to CNBC, staffers who posted in the Slack channel said they were caught off guard by the announcement. Many expressed frustration that they’d have to find arrangements for child care, caregivers for aging parents, or potentially move in order to be within commuting distance of the office.

Many staffers are reportedly putting the phrase “Remote Advocacy” in their Slack status in order to show their support for the petition.

In addition to conveying their concerns about the mandate, the petition also presents a number of data points and studies highlighting the benefits of remote work, such as improved productivity, and the ability to attract and retain top talent.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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