Amazon chastises staff for failure to comply with in-office work mandate

Amazon chastises staff for failure to comply with in-office work mandate

In an email to some US-based employees, Amazon sends a stern reminder about its requirement for staff to be physically present in the office three days a week.

Credit: Dreamstime

Amazon is reprimanding its US workers for not spending enough time in the office, sending a stern email about its work policy to employees this week.

“We are reaching out as you are not currently meeting our expectation of joining your colleagues in the office at least three days a week, even though your assigned building is ready,” the email read, according to a screenshot shared on the anonymous corporate message board Blind and confirmed by Amazon.

“We expect you to start coming into the office three or more days a week now,” the email continued, adding that if the recipient had received the email in error or had a specific reason prohibiting them from attending the office, they should have a conversation with their manager as soon as possible.

When asked to clarify the circumstances under which an employee might receive such an email, Amazon said it was intended for workers who “have badged in fewer than 3 days a week for 5 or more of the past 8 weeks, have not badged in 3 days a week for 3 or more of the past 4 weeks, and their building has been ready 8 weeks or more.”

A spokesperson for Amazon also stressed that this policy only affected employees based in the US but didn’t respond when asked under what circumstances workers will be able to apply for exemptions, and if attendance will be tied to employee performance reviews.

In May, several hundred tech and administrative workers at Amazon’s main headquarters in Seattle staged a walkout, in part due to the company mandate on the number of days employees needed to be in the office. The Amazon Employees for Climate Justice group, which organised the walkout, accused the company of overseeing a “fumbled rollout” regarding its return-to-office policy and said it threatened the company’s long-term success.

Amazon also laid off more than 18,000 employees in January this year. The figure, which represented the largest round of job cuts in the company’s history, were the result of “the uncertain economy,” according to a note from CEO Andy Jassy.

Big Tech continues to renege on flexible work policies

Even though technology organisations seemingly led the charge to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, over the last 12 months a large number of so-called Big Tech companies have backtracked on their flexible working plans.

Earlier this week, videoconferencing company Zoom updated its hybrid work policy to require any employee within 50 miles of an office to commute in at least twice a week, while last month, Google begun requiring most employees to be in an office at least three days a week and controversially said it would be factoring office attendance into employees’ performance reviews. 

According to a report from The Information, Meta is also planning to enact its strictest remote work policy change since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, requiring employees to be in the office three days a week from September.

Research from tech analyst firm Gartner found that 69% of business leaders have concerns about collaboration, culture, creativity and engagement and 54% of human resources leaders believe that their employees are less connected to their organisations than they were before the pandemic.

However, the research also showed that employees are 1.6 times more likely to perform better when their teams are dispersed in different locations and time zones. Furthermore, among employees with “radical flexibility,” 53% reported a high degree of connectedness, whereas just 18% of those with low flexibility did so.

“In response to increasing pressure and a potential recession, many leaders are planning to implement return to the office policies in 2023 to regain a sense of control over the workplace,” said Caitlin Duffy, a director in the Gartner HR practice.

However, Duffy said that mandating an office-centric approach to working is a mistake as it overlooks the numerous benefits of hybrid work, including greater opportunities for employee flexibility, advantages for underrepresented talent — including women, people of color, and disabled workers —and the "important fact" that many employees are significantly more productive and more engaged in a hybrid workplace.

The problem leaders are experiencing is not the result of hybrid working, but a failure to fully optimise it, she said, arguing that a weakened workplace culture is not the result of having fewer employees on-site, but a failure to intentionally build culture connectedness into the hybrid workplace.

“Organisations that resist hybrid working are setting themselves up for long-term reputation and attrition risks and hindering their long-term competitiveness in what will inevitably be a more virtual society in future,” Duffy said.

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