Amazon employees push CEO Andy Jassy to drop return-to-office mandate

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The Amazon Spheres, part of the Amazon headquarters campus, right, in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle, Washington, U.S., on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021.
Chona Kasinger | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A group of Amazon employees is urging CEO Andy Jassy to reconsider a new return-to-office mandate.

On Friday, Jassy announced Amazon would require corporate staffers to spend at least three days a week in the office beginning May 1. Jassy said he and Amazon’s leadership team, known as the S-team, decided it would be easier for employees to collaborate and invent together in person and that in-person work would strengthen the company’s culture.

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

Staffers on Friday created a Slack channel to advocate for remote work and share their concerns about the new return-to-work policy, according to screenshots viewed by CNBC. Almost 14,000 employees had joined the Slack channel as of Tuesday morning.

The employees have also drafted a petition, addressed to Jassy and the S-team, that calls for leadership to drop the new policy, saying it “runs contrary” to Amazon’s positions on diversity and inclusion, affordable housing, sustainability, and focus on being the “Earth’s Best Employer.”

“We, the undersigned, call for Amazon to protect its role and status as a global retail and tech leader by immediately cancelling 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 permits,” according to a draft of the petition, which was previously reported by Business Insider.

An Amazon spokesperson referred back to Jassy’s blog post about return-to-office guidance.

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

“Many employees trusted these statements and planned for a life where their employer wouldn’t force them to return to the office,” a draft of the petition states. “The RTO mandate shattered their trust in Amazon’s leaders.”

Employees who moved during the pandemic or were hired for a remote role are concerned about how the new policy will affect them, according to one employee, who asked to remain anonymous. Amazon’s head count ballooned over the last three years, and it hired more employees outside of its key tech hubs such as Seattle, New York and Northern California as it embraced a more distributed workforce.

Amazon hasn’t addressed 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 share of employees prefer working fully remote with the option of a monthly sync-up in the office, or prefer working in the office at most one to two days a week. It also points to research showing that remote work increases productivity and allows companies such as Amazon to reduce expenses and attract and retain top talent.

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

WATCH: Andy Jassy on the benefits of remote work

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