Only days after Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said corporate workers would be required to spend at least three days a week in offices beginning May 1, Amazon workers are fighting the new return-to-office (RTO) policy.
Thousands of the e-commerce giant's employees are protesting Amazon's new requirement—a reversal from its pandemic-era policy that had allowed managers to determine how often employees needed to work in person. Jassy wrote in a blog post on Feb. 17 that employees would have to be in offices at least three days a week, saying in-person work allows for better collaboration, learning and invention.
Opposition from thousands of Amazon's employees comes just days after Disney employees also pushed back against Disney CEO Bob Iger's announcement that some employees would have to return to offices four days a week.
It's further proof of the tug-of-war happening between employers and employees when it comes to return-to-office policies.
SHRM Online rounded up additional news on the topic.
Thousands of Amazon Employees Speak Out
Right after Jassy shared the memo with Amazon employees on Friday, workers created a Slack channel to advocate for remote work and voice their concerns about the new return-to-work policy, according to screenshots viewed by CNBC. Roughly 14,000 employees had joined the Slack channel as of Feb. 21.
Employees also drafted a petition to Jassy and other company leaders calling for them to drop the new policy. "We, the undersigned, call for Amazon to protect its role and status as a global retail and tech leader by immediately cancelling the RTO policy and issuing a new policy that allows employees to work remotely or more flexibly, if they choose to do so, as their team and job role permits," according to a draft of the petition, which was previously reported by Business Insider.
Disney Workers Also Petitioned Against RTO
According to The Washington Post, roughly 2,300 Disney employees signed a petition asking Iger to reconsider his new return-to-office policy. 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 will dramatically "reduce productivity, output, and efficiency."
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.
Return-to-Office Mandates May Cause Workers to Quit
Recent research offers a warning to employers about implementing return-to-office 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."
Some Firms Continuing Remote Policies See Benefits
Although a handful of employers—including Amazon and Disney—are mandating a return to offices after nearly three years of remote work due to the pandemic, many employers are continuing to embrace remote work.
Insurance giant Allstate, for example, said it will allow employees to decide for themselves if they want to stay remote or work in offices. After giving employees the choice, 83 percent of Allstate workers are fully remote. Allowing employees to be remote has also resulted in a 60 percent increase in applications and a 30 percent increase in candidates from underrepresented demographics, Stephanie Roseman, vice president of people solutions and experiences at Allstate, recently told SHRM Online.
"It's enabled us to find the best talent," Roseman said. "That's a really compelling thing for us."