A hot potato: Amazon’s decision to force its workers back into the office brought the kind of response from employees expected: anger. The announcement of the mandate led to thousands of employees joining a Slack channel and planning a petition, despite one senior executive suggesting, “let’s not take out our torches and pitchforks.”
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy on Friday posted a message saying that during the pandemic when many teams are working from home or in hybrid models, the company made several observations about office work.
Amazon claims that it’s easier to learn, model, practice, and reinforce its culture when employees are in the office together. It also says that traditional working practices facilitate collaboration and invention, and learning from colleagues is better done in person.
“There’s something about facing someone, looking them in the eye, and seeing that they’re completely immersed in whatever you’re talking about that brings people together,” Jassy wrote. Based on these findings, Amazon employees must enter the office at least three days per week starting in May.
Insider reported 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 currently boasts over 14,000 members.
A survey within the Slack channel showed 80% of respondents saying they would be willing to find another job instead of being forced back into the office. The unexpectedness of Jassy’s announcement and its vagueness are also points of contention for employees who expect to continue working from home in the long term.
Paul Vixie, a vice president and engineer at Amazon Web Services, joined the Slack group, admitting that he didn’t know about the policy beforehand and that senior executives might not have worked out the details. it is yet to be announced.
“I don’t know any details. What I think is, balancing the concerns and needs and desires of customers, employee families, and shareholders is difficult on the easiest day, and it’s not the easiest day,” added Vixie. “My advice is, let’s not grab our torches and pitchforks yet. There’s still a lot we don’t know.”
Some companies that have implemented return-to-work orders are facing pushback from employees. Apple workers launched a petition against its plans to bring back office staff last year, while Elon Musk’s demands have left Tesla staff fighting for parking spaces and desks at the facility in Fremont.
Amazon has never had the best public image, but it’s been hammered harder than usual in recent weeks. New reports reveal that it is taking a 50% commission from salespeople, and the company is cutting a record 18,000 jobs. Some on the Slack team believe the new policy may be in place to encourage people to quit, thereby saving Amazon from making more layoffs.