Amazon announced Friday that workers will be required to report in person to the office at least three days a week beginning in May, putting an end to years of more flexible work arrangements brought on by the pandemic.
“Invention is often sloppy. It wanders and meanders and marinates,” Jassy wrote. “Serendipitous interactions help it, and there are more of those in-person than virtually.”
Amazon is just the latest major company to adopt some version of a return-to-work policy that requires workers to show up at the office for a certain number of days. Walt Disney Co. recently told its staffers to appear in the office four days a week. The Washington Post requires workers based in D.C. to report to headquarters three days a week. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
The news from Amazon comes as the coronavirus pandemic enters its third year, with data showing that people are still getting sick and dying even as widespread vaccinations have allowed many others to resume a day-to-day existence free of constant anxiety and reminders of the virus.
The economic implications of the pandemic, however, are still playing out in unpredictable ways. Tech companies like Amazon that went on hiring binges at the start of the pandemic have more recently announced large-scale layoffs, upending their workers’ lives in a different way.
And even as Amazon and others order workers back to the workplace for a majority of the workweek, many observers wonder whether the nation will ever return to the model of a five-day office week that prevailed before the pandemic. The future of the workplace is still shaking out but with so many workers now accustomed to working remotely, few experts believe the old ways will ever come back.
Earlier this month, data tracked by Kastle Systems said 50 percent of workers were now back at their desks — and some experts think that’s as high as it will go.
In the earlier days of the pandemic Amazon had wavered on how much freedom to give workers to work remotely, announcing at one point in 2021 that it would be returning to an “office-centric culture,” only to reverse course and allow a mix of in-person and remote work.
Even after layoffs, Amazon employs well over 1 million workers worldwide. In his message Friday, Jassy said he understood the change could be difficult to implement.
“We know that it won’t be perfect at first,” Jassy wrote, “but the office experience will steadily improve over the coming months (and years) as our real estate and facilities teams smooth out the wrinkles, and ultimately keep evolving how we want our offices to be set up to capture the new ways we want to work.”
Jassy also said he hoped the shift would provide a boost to communities in Seattle and elsewhere where Amazon facilities are located.
The head of the Downtown Seattle Association welcomed the news.
“Downtown’s largest employer bringing people to the heart of the city is music to the ears of small businesses and arts organizations,” Jon Scholes, president and chief executive of the Downtown Seattle Association, said in a statement. “The public sector should respond by continuing to build on recent progress to make the streets of downtown safer and more welcoming for all who live, work and visit here.”
Rachel Lerman contributed to this report.