Amazon U-turns on plans for staff to return to the office

US tech giant Amazon has recently U-turned on plans for all its employees to return to the office three days per week. The retail company will now leave it up to individual team directors to decide how often their employees work in the office.

In a memo to employees sent on Monday, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said the company will leave it up to individual team directors to decide how often their employees work in the office.

“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,” Jassy wrote.

“We’re intentionally not prescribing how many days or which days — this is for Directors to determine with their senior leaders and teams.”

Amazon’s plans for their employees to return to work have changed dramatically as the year has progressed; in March, Amazon emphasised that its goal was to “return to an office-centric culture as our baseline.” At the time, the company said it expects some employees to return to the office this summer, with most of its staff back at the office by the fall.

In June, the company then U-turned on this and said it will allow corporate employees to work remotely up to two days per week.

When commenting on the latest development in their working policy, Jassy said Amazon found it couldn’t prescribe a “one-size-fits-all approach” to work at the company’s scale. Amazon now has 1.3 million employees worldwide, with hundreds of thousands of those in corporate roles.

As part of the policy change, Amazon will also give corporate employees the option to work up to four weeks per year fully remotely from any location within the country they’re employed.

While Amazon is giving employees greater leeway on reporting to the office, Jassy said most employees will be expected to remain close enough to their team “that they can easily travel to the office for a meeting within a day’s notice.”

Industry Reaction

Stéphane Kirchacker, Vice President EMEA at intelligent search provider Sinequa, commented: “Amazon’s decision to reverse demands that workers return to the office demonstrates the ongoing impact that Covid-19 is having on working practices – businesses must now work to find the model that makes the most business sense for them.

“With the decision about office working now in the hands of Amazon’s department leaders, it is crucial they ensure the chosen model of working maximises employee productivity and collaboration, wherever workers are based.

“The pandemic has demonstrated the clear value of investing in digital workplaces to achieve successful flexible and remote working models. Creating a virtual environment that fosters productivity, collaboration and innovation will prove essential for organisations going forwards.

“This can be achieved by providing employees with the right tools to do their job, such as solutions that enable them to switch between applications seamlessly, which will ensure they remain productive, engaged, and able to achieve their maximum potential regardless of where they are working.”