After thousands of Amazon employees petitioned against the firm's new return-to-office (RTO) policy, asking the company to reconsider, workers have their answer: The RTO mandate is staying.
Insider reports that a top Amazon HR executive has formally rejected employees' petition to drop the RTO mandate, saying that the company's plans to require in-person work will stay.
Thousands of the retail giant's employees have been fighting against the RTO policy, forming a Slack channel to advocate for remote work and drafting a petition to Amazon CEO Andy Jassy and other company leaders calling for them to drop the new policy. Their protests began immediately after Jassy said on Feb. 17 that corporate workers would be required to spend at least three days a week in offices beginning May 1.
SHRM Online rounded up additional news on the topic.
Leaked Message from HR to Petitioning Employees
Amazon HR head Beth Galetti told the organizing group behind the petition—which was signed by roughly 30,000 workers—that its request was shared with Jassy's leadership team and that the company still intends to move forward with its RTO plan, according to a message shared with Insider.
"Given the large size of our workforce and our wide range of businesses and customers, we recognize this transition may take time, but we are confident it will result in long-term benefits to increasing our ability to deliver for our customers, bolstering our culture, and growing and developing employees," Galetti said in the memo.
Remote Work Declined from 2021 to 2022
Amazon's plan to move ahead with its RTO mandate comes as fewer companies offer remote work options. The amount of remote work dropped from 2021 to 2022 but might be starting to plateau, a survey released by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found. From August to September 2022, 72.5 percent of establishments had little or no telework, up from 60.1 percent in July through September 2021. In addition, the percentage of establishments with some, but not all, employees teleworking was 16.4 percent last year, down from 29.8 percent in 2021.
Whether they had remote work or not, the vast majority of organizations (roughly 95 percent) expected the amount of telework at their organizations to remain the same.
"Employers are requiring or strongly encouraging employees to return to work onsite on at least a hybrid basis," said Jonathan Segal, an attorney with Duane Morris in Philadelphia and New York City.
Disney Workers Also Petitioned Against RTO
Amazon employees haven't been the only workers to petition against new RTO mandates. Thousands of Disney employees signed a petition asking Disney CEO Bob Iger to reconsider the company's new RTO policy that he announced in January. Employees argued that a return to the office is likely to "have unintended consequences that cause long-term harm to the company" and will lead to "forced resignations among some of our most hard-to-replace talent and vulnerable communities." They also allege it that will dramatically "reduce productivity, output and efficiency."
Disney appears to also be moving ahead with its RTO policy despite the employee opposition.
At the time of Iger's RTO policy announcement, HR leaders told SHRM Online that although the mandate wasn't necessarily surprising in light of more relaxed pandemic-related measures, such a policy could have the potential to backfire. That's because remote work and flexibility have been overwhelmingly popular and desired by employees after nearly three years of the practice.
"This attempt to reclaim authority and control over employees risks damaging future returns," warned Ian Cook, vice president of people analytics at Visier, a Vancouver, British Columbia-based analytics firm.
RTO Mandates May Cause Workers to Quit
Recent research offers a warning to employers about implementing RTO policies: Nearly 7 in 10 employees (68 percent) said they would rather look for a new job than return to the office, according to a survey of more than 1,000 remote workers by Clarify Capital, a financial consultancy in New York City. That number is even higher among Generation Z workers, 79 percent of whom said they would look for a new job over returning to the office.
"Our research suggests employers should reconsider forcing employees back into offices if they don't have to," said Nishank Khanna, chief marketing officer of Clarify Capital. "Employers can also attempt to meet in the middle and offer a more flexible work schedule or allow employees to work from home a certain number of days per week or month."