Amazon employees rage against return-to-office mandate as exec pleads for calm
"Let's not grab our torches and pitchforks quite yet"By Rob Thubron 29 comments
A hot potato: Amazon's decision to force its workers back into the office has brought the kind of response from employees one would expect: anger. The mandate announcement led to thousands of staff joining a Slack channel and planning a petition, despite one senior executive suggesting, "let's not grab our torches and pitchforks quite yet."
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on Friday posted a message stating that during the pandemic when many teams worked from home or in hybrid models, the company made several observations regarding in-office work.
Amazon claims that it is easier to learn, model, practice, and strengthen its culture when employees are in the office together. It also says traditional working practices make collaborating and inventing easier, and learning from colleagues is better done in person.
"There is something about being face-to-face with somebody, looking them in the eye, and seeing they're fully immersed in whatever you're discussing that bonds people together," Jassy wrote. Based on these findings, Amazon staff must come into the office at least three days per week starting in May.
Insider reports that 5,000 Amazon employees joined a Slack channel called "Remote Advocacy" within hours of the announcement. It seeks "data, anecdotes, articles about the benefits of remote work" and now boasts over 14,000 members.
A survey within the Slack channel showed 80% of respondents saying they were prepared to look for another job rather than being forced back to the office. The unexpectedness of Jassy's announcement and its vagueness are also points of contention for employees who expected to continue working from home in the long term.
Paul Vixie, a vice president and engineer for Amazon Web Services, joined the Slack group, admitting that he did not know about the policy ahead of time and senior execs might not have finalized the details before it was announced.
"I don't know any details. My thought is, balancing the concerns and needs and desires of customers, employee families, and shareholders is hard on the easiest day, and this is not the easiest day," Vixie added. "My guidance is, let's not grab our torches and pitchforks quite yet. There's a lot we don't know."
Other companies implementing return-to-work mandates are facing pushback from employees. Apple workers launched a petition against its plans to bring staff back into the office last year, while Elon Musk's demands left Tesla's staff fighting for parking spaces and desks at its Fremont facility.
Amazon has never had the best public image, but it's taken even more of a hammering than usual over the last few weeks. Recent reports revealed it takes up to 50% commission from sellers, and the company is cutting a record 18,000 jobs. Some in the Slack group believe the new policy could be in place to encourage people to quit, thereby saving Amazon from making more layoffs.