Amazon employees express dismay at sudden return-to-office guidelines

A front desk at Amazon offices in downtown Seattle, Washington.

Glen Chapman | AFP | Getty Images

Amazon employees on Tuesday continued to speak out about CEO Andy Jassys’ recently announced mandate to return to the office, including spamming an internal website with messages conveying their opposition to the new policy.

A group of tech workers set up a Slack channel and drafted an internal petition pushing back on the mandate, which requires them to be back in the office at least three days a week starting May 1. The petition calls on Jassy and Amazon’s management team, known as the S-team, to drop the mandate, just days after it was made public.

The group has since gathered 16,000 members, and around 5,000 employees have signed the petition from Tuesday evening.

Employee dissatisfaction with the mandate spilled over to the e-retailer’s internal employee news feed, called Inside Amazon, where workers repeatedly commented on a recording of Jassy’s recent all-hands meeting.

“By arbitrarily forcing a return to the 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 the world’s best employer,” according to screenshots seen by CNBC. “I believe this decision will be detrimental to our business and is contrary to how we make decisions at Amazon.”

Employees began leaving those comments after Amazon disabled employees from “liking” or commenting on Jassy’s note announcing the return-to-office mandate, according to an employee who asked to remain anonymous. Each comment shows the poster’s identity and role in the company.

Employees who posted in the Slack channel said they were caught off guard by the announcement. Many expressed frustration at having to find child care arrangements, caregivers for aging parents, or potentially move to be within commuting distance of the office.

One worker said they had recently leased a car that with an annual limit of 16,000 miles provided telecommuting was still an option; if they are required to come into the office at least three days a week, they will exceed this limit.

Others took the company’s previous flexible working position as an opportunity to move outside major cities to find more affordable housing and are now worried about the commute.

An employee invited Jassy to the Slack channel, prompting employees to encourage their colleagues to be responsible and avoid creating too much of a fuss, as it could cause the company to close the channel.

Many employees put the phrase “Remote Advocacy” in their Slack status 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 that highlight the benefits of telecommuting, such as improved productivity, and the ability to attract and retain top talent.

Previously, Amazon had left it up to individual managers to decide how often their teams would be required to come into the office. Jassy had also embraced remote and hybrid working, predicting that it would have a lasting impact on how people do their jobs.

Last week, Jassy acknowledged that calling employees back to the office would present some challenges.

“We know it won’t be perfect right away, but the office experience will continue to improve over the coming months (and years) as our real estate and facilities teams iron out the kinks, ultimately continuing to evolve the way we want the offices to ours will be set up to capture the new ways we want to work,” Jassy wrote in a memo announcing the mandate.

Several tech companies have returned to in-person work as the pandemic has eased. Google and Apple have required some of their employees to return to the office since last year, while Disney in January began requiring hybrid employees to be in the office four days a week.

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