Amazon Asks Workers to Relocate for Return-to-Office Policy

Amazon will force 'voluntary resignation' on those workers who choose not to relocate

Amazon Asks Workers to Relocate for Return-to-Office Policy
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Published: July 25, 2023

Kieran Devlin

Amazon is asking some corporate employees to relocate to different cities as part of its return-to-office policy.

Additionally, Business Insider has reported that leaked Amazon emails and messages suggest that if workers refuse to relocate to their new teams’ “hubs”, Amazon will offer them 60 days to find a new team in their current city or force them into “voluntary resignation”.

An Amazon Spokesperson, Brad Glasser, stated that worker relocations were taking place but wouldn’t specify the number of those relocating and wouldn’t comment on claims that Amazon required some workers in smaller offices to relocate to main offices in bigger cities.

Glasser commented in a prepared statement:

There’s more energy, collaboration, and connections happening since we’ve been working together at least three days per week, and we’ve heard this from lots of employees and the businesses that surround our offices. We continue to look at the best ways to bring more teams together in the same locations, and we’ll communicate directly with employees as we make decisions that affect them.”

Glasser added that Amazon would provide “relocation benefits” to employees asked to move and evaluate requests for exceptions on a case-by-case basis.

The update marks an expansion of Amazon’s established return-to-office policy that mandates that employees must work in the office three days a week, which was announced in February and instituted in May. The introduction of that policy facilitated hundreds of Amazon workers in Seattle to protest outside the business’s headquarters. Amazon had previously allowed team leaders to decide on return-to-office policies.

At the time of the newly announced mandate in February, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy stated that Amazon’s decision was informed its decision to bring workers back by considering what did and didn’t work during the pandemic. Jassy iterated that the senior leadership team observed how its staff performed and discussed with other business leaders before concluding that employees tended to be more engaged in person.

Amazon has cut 27,000 jobs over the past few months.

The Tech Giants’ Differing Return-to-Office Policies

Although most tech businesses have several fully remote departments and employees, three days in the office appears to be the general norm for corporate employees in 2023.

Amazon’s three-day return-to-office policy echoes several of its competitors, including Google’s, which was instituted in April 2022. Apple, too, work three days a week in the office, a policy which began last September.

Zoom offers flexible working for most roles, with most employees able to choose whether they want to work fully on-premises or in a remote or hybrid capacity.

Amazon’s return-to-office policy marginally differs from one of its most prominent competitors in Microsoft. Microsoft currently adopts a hybrid working model with workers expected to be on-premises for at least 50 percent of their workweek unless they have special permission.

However, Microsoft has been publicly oppositional to a full return-to-office in a broader sense. In May, a Microsoft executive urged workers to “actively fight back” against efforts by businesses to force them back to the office.

Lucy Cooper, Head of Customer Innovation for Europe at Microsoft, argued that returning to daily commuting would negatively affect women and young people. Cooper stressed that rather than using the stick of mandating people back to the office, businesses should instead focus on the ca”rot of “encouraging” employees to return.

“Flexible and remote working benefits single parents, young people, people who have an a-typical work or life environment,” Cooper said. “We need to be really careful before we disenfranchise those groups. We have to actively fight back against the rhetoric we are hearing and try and find a new model to help the remote, flexible, hybrid work environment. We want to encourage these people to be able to turn up and be as valuable as they possibly can.”

The Challenge to Hybrid Working as the New Normal

The world was forced to adapt to the realities of remote working when the COVID-19 pandemic spread in early 2020. Some businesses believed from the experience that there were long-term employee health and productivity benefits of a remote or hybrid working model — empowered by platforms such as Teams, Webex and Zoom. Many organisations decided to preserve the policy, and hybrid workplaces have become the new normal.

However, Amazon isn’t alone among businesses that have attempted to return to varying extents of on-site work, believing collaboration suffers when employees work remotely. While this has been prominent amongst tech companies, this has been especially contentious in financial services and banking. JP Morgan, BlackRock and Lloyds are three major financial businesses in the news recently for revamping their hybrid working policies.

JP Morgan asked its senior bankers to return to the office five days a week in April, while in May, BlackRock released a memo asking all staff to be on-site four days a week beginning this autumn. During its recent annual meeting, Lloyds was criticised by staff for reversing its flexible working model.

Corporate FinanceCustomer ExperienceDigital TransformationFuture of WorkHybrid WorkRetail



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