This editorial article is a part of Big Tech + You Month 2023 in Technical.ly’s editorial calendar.
Tech giant Amazon has announced a new return-to-work policy for its entire workforce. Effective May 1, employees of the tech giant will be required to spend the majority of their time back in the office — at least three days per week. The company said that there will be exceptions regarding certain roles, such as sales and customer support, but that it will be a small majority.
“We know that it won’t be perfect at first, but the office experience will steadily improve over the coming months (and years) as our real estate and facilities teams smooth out the wrinkles, and ultimately keep evolving how we want our offices to be set up to capture the new ways we want to work,” CEO Andy Jassy wrote in a post announcing the news.
In the DC region, this means Amazon workers will be required to head to HQ2 upon completion. Metropolitan Park is set to open this summer — just in time for the new workplace policy implementation. PenPlace, its second build, isn’t expected to be completed until 2026. Approximately 5,000 Amazon workers reside in the DMV area, and the company leases a large amount of space in Crystal City.
When asked about the news, Amazon directed Technical.ly back to the post, though it did confirm that this move would extend to AWS employees, as well. The tech giant last updated its return-to-work policy in 2021, which said that director-level employees would decide how teams would work. In the time following, it would “experiment” with the best workplace practices and policies.
“Because the pandemic lasted as long as it did, we were able to observe various models — some teams working exclusively from home, some in the office full-time together, and many flavors of hybrid — over a meaningful period of time,” the post continued.
According to Amazon, the switch to an IRL-leaning hybrid model is because of the triumphs it sees in company culture with in-person work. The post argues that it’s easier to learn from one another, stay engaged, and collaborate and invent with in-person work. The company has yet to announce a more specific return-to-work plan and said it will be finalizing details in the coming weeks.
Tech workers’ reactions
Tech has long been seen as an industry amenable to remote work (you can code from anywhere, after all). Yet several large companies that employ technologists have mandated a return to corporate HQs as the pandemic wanes — and gotten pushback from those technologists in the process. In Philadelphia, for instance, Technical.ly spoke to several Comcast employees who said they would look for a new job if forced to give up fully remote work when the telecommunications giant announced its shift last fall.
According to reporting by CNBC, Amazon tech employees are organizing to push Jassy to drop the return-to-office policy, including by launching a private Slack channel and drafting a petition.
One Twitter user who identified himself as a eight-year Amazon employee noted the impact the new policy could have on employees who most benefit from flexible work setups.
“This has extraordinary impacts for new parents, disabled workers, and distributed teams to say the least,” he wrote. “It would be great to have seen an Amazon-specific study that reviews productivity and satisfaction metrics among remote workers before justifying the policy change.”
@ajassy I have been an #Amazon employee since 2014 and am proud of the work I do here. The Inside Amazon article about our return to office felt anecdotal with no data points presented, and seems to be against our LPs and mission to be Earth's best employer. (1/4)
— Steven (@snmash7) February 17, 2023
Remember those layoffs?
This news follows another shift in Amazon culture: the multiple rounds of layoffs announced since last year. In total, the company has culled 18,000 globally, largely to lower company costs, following a November announcement that it would take a pause on hiring for its corporate workforce. Amazon has not specified how many were impacted locally by layoffs.
Though it accompanied other Big Tech layoffs, the Amazon cuts came as a shock to the community. Martine DeVoe, a former human resources business partner for Amazon, noted in November that the tech giant was always seen as a stable place for tech workers.
“Amazon was always one of the only places that was hiring. People knew, ‘Oh, I can always go to Amazon and get a job, Amazon’s always hiring,’” DeVoe told Technical.ly then. “Amazon has never done a massive layoff like what they’re doing now.”
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