Amazon Leaving Office Return Up to Managers

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Amazon is entrusting its individual team managers to make the call on whether corporate employees need to return to the office, with some workers allowed to stay home indefinitely, the online retail giant announced in a message to employees on Monday.

The company said it expected directors of corporate teams to decide whether staffers will return to the office full time, work remotely, or some combination of the two before Jan. 3, 2022. That date was formerly Amazon’s deadline for a company-wide corporate return to the office for at least three days a week. 

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“At this stage, we want most of our people close enough to their core team that they can easily travel to the office for a meeting within a day’s notice,” wrote CEO Andy Jassy in the memo. 

Amazon’s new policy is the second time it’s adjusted its return date from original plans of an early September reopening deadline, which was pushed back as was the case with several other companies as concerns over the delta variant mounted. Apple stalled its return by several weeks and Google followed suit, announcing in late July that it was delaying its return-to-work date to October from Sept. 6.

Amazon will continue to let corporate employees work remotely from a different location for up to four weeks per year within their country of employment. The tech giant hasn’t put in place a vaccine mandate for its staff, but it strongly encourages workers and contractors to get vaccinated, according to an Amazon spokesperson. 

The move comes more than a year after Amazon announced it would open a 2,000-person office at the former Lord & Taylor flagship at 424 Fifth Avenue, part of its $1.4 billion plan to create 3,500 new tech and corporate jobs in New York, Dallas, Detroit, Denver, Phoenix and San Diego, Commercial Observer previously reported.  

It’s unclear how Amazon’s new policy would impact its New York City office holdings, which include the 335,000 square feet it leased at 410 10th Avenue in 2019. But Amazon has given no indication it plans to leave its properties.

Amazon’s portfolio in New York also includes millions of square feet of industrial space where warehouse workers have complained of poor safety standards during the pandemic. New York Attorney General Letitia James filed suit against Amazon in June, accusing it of “flagrant disregard for health and safety requirements” at warehouses in Staten Island and  Queens. Her ability to sue was upheld by a federal judge in August. (Amazon previously said James’ suit doesn’t show an “accurate picture” of its safety protocols.)

Jassy thanked Amazon’s warehouse workers, who have been working on-site all throughout the pandemic, while the e-commerce giant profited off of skyrocketing demand for online shopping

“I also want to recognize our colleagues in Amazon’s fulfillment and transportation divisions whose roles aren’t as flexible as most of our corporate roles,” Jassy wrote. “The work of these teams remains critical to communities around the world (and to the company’s success), and the world has relied on them to deliver products to their doorsteps since the very beginning of the pandemic.”

Amazon warehouse workers have also said the company has attempted to suppress unionization efforts in Bessemer, Ala., and on Staten Island. A National Labor Relations Board official called for a new union election in Bessemer in August, after finding that Amazon violated labor law by interfering in the election process. 

Update: This story has been updated to include a comment from an Amazon spokesperson.

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.