Amazon employees are pressuring CEO Andy Jassy to drop his mandate to return to office

The Amazon Spheres, part of the Amazon headquarters, right, in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, U.S., Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.

Chona Kasinger | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A group of Amazon employees is calling on CEO Andy Jassy to reconsider a recently reinstated mandate.

Last week, Jassy announced that Amazon would require company employees to spend at least three days a week in the office starting May 1. Amazon is rolling back pandemic-era flexibility toward remote work after Jassy and Amazon’s leadership team, known as the S-Team, determined it would be easier for employees to collaborate and invent together in person, while strengthening the company’s culture.

The move marks a shift from Amazon’s previous policy, last updated in October 2021, which left it up to managers to decide how often their teams had to be in the office. Since then, there has been a mix of fully remote and hybrid work among Amazon’s white-collar workers.

Employees set up a Slack channel on Friday to advocate for remote work and share their concerns about the new return-to-work policy, according to screenshots seen by CNBC. Nearly 14,000 employees had joined the Slack channel by Tuesday morning.

The employees have also prepared a petition addressed to Jassy and the S team asking management to drop the new policy, saying it “contradicts” Amazon’s positions on diversity and inclusion, affordable housing, sustainability and a focus on being “Earth best employer”.

“We, the undersigned, call on Amazon to protect its role and status as a global retail and technology leader by immediately rescinding the RTO policy and issuing a new policy that allows employees to work remotely or more flexibly, if they choose to do so, as their team and job role allows,” according to a draft of the petition, which was previously reported by Business Insider.

An Amazon spokesperson pointed back to Jassy’s blog post on return-to-the-office guidance.

The employees also pointed to Jassy’s earlier statements about return-to-the-office plans, in which he said there is no “one-size-fits-all approach to how each team works best” and praised the benefits of remote work.

“Many employees relied on these statements and planned for a life in which their employer would not force them to return to the office,” a draft of the petition said. “The RTO mandate shattered their confidence in Amazon’s executives.”

Employees who moved during the pandemic or were hired for an external role are concerned about how the new policy will affect them, according to an employee who asked to remain anonymous. Amazon’s headcount grew over the past three years, hiring more employees outside of its core tech hubs such as Seattle, New York and Northern California as it embraced a more distributed workforce.

Amazon has not decided whether remote employees will be asked to relocate, beyond Jassy noting that there will be “a small minority” of exceptions to the new policy.

The petition cites internal data showing that a significant proportion of employees prefer to work completely remotely with the possibility of monthly synchronization in the office, or prefer to work in the office a maximum of one to two days a week. It also points to research showing that remote work boosts productivity, allowing companies like Amazon to cut costs and attract and retain top talent.

It also notes that a return to mostly personal work could affect employees’ work-life balance, and could particularly harm parents, minorities, caregivers and people with disabilities. Employees also questioned Amazon’s reasoning behind forcing personal work in all cases. For example, some employees who are part of global teams will come into the office only to continue taking virtual meetings, and they may not even have a colleague in their office, the petition said.

SEE: Andy Jassy on the benefits of telecommuting

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