Amazon: Amazon Changes Back-to-Office Policy: Read CEO Andy Jassy’s Email to Employees

It’s time to return to the Amazon employees’ office. According to an email from CEO Andy Jassy, ​​employees at the e-commerce giant have been asked to work from the office at least three days a week starting May 1. The email was also published on the company’s blog. In October 2021, the company stated that it was up to each team leader to decide their internal policies. Amazon joins the likes of Apple, Walmart and Disney in announcing back-to-office policy. It is likely that other tech giants will also make return to office mandatory in the coming days.
Here is Jassy’s full memo to Amazon employees:
It’s hard to believe, but almost three years have passed since the pandemic began and we have recommended that all of our employees who are able to work from home do so. We then updated the guidance a few times, with the most recent guidance (in the second half of 2021) being that director-level leaders would decide for their teams where to work, and we would be experimenting for the foreseeable future.
Because the pandemic has lasted so long, we’ve seen different models over a significant period – some teams working exclusively from home, others working together full-time in the office, and many types of hybrids. The S team listened to employees, observed our teams’ performance, spoke to leaders from other companies and met on several occasions to discuss whether and how we should adjust our approach. The guiding principle in these conversations was to prioritize what best enables us to make customers’ lives better and easier every day, and work tirelessly to make it happen. Our respective views of what we believed to be optimal evolved and then waned over the course of the pandemic.

Here are a few things we observed:
– It is easier to learn, model, practice and strengthen our culture when we are in the office together most of the time and surrounded by our colleagues. This is especially true for new employees (and we have hired many during the pandemic); but it also applies to people of all tenures at Amazon. When in person, people tend to be more engaged, attentive, and attuned to what’s happening in the meetings and what cultural cues are being conveyed. For those who aren’t sure why something happened or why someone reacted a certain way, it’s easier to ask ad hoc questions on the way to lunch, in the elevator, or in the hallway. However, if you are at home, you are less likely to do this. It’s also easier for leaders to teach when they have multiple people in a room at once, they can better assess whether the team is processing the information as intended; and if not, how they need to adjust their communication. Of course, there will be many meetings where there will be significant virtual participation, but more face-to-face interactions will help people better absorb the culture. Our culture has been a key part of our success for the first 27 years and I expect it will continue to be the case for the next 27+ years. Strengthening this further is a top priority for me and the s-team.
– Collaborating and inventing is easier and more effective when we’re face-to-face. The energy and riffing on each other’s ideas happens more freely. In the more productive brainstorming sessions I’ve attended over the years, people get excited and blurt out new ideas or improvements to previous suggestions, quickly propelling the germ of an idea and causing the broader group to gain energy and this senses it’s on something. This quick throw-in happens more often in person because people feel less shy about stepping in or even interrupting at times. This interjection is less common in virtual calls because it blocks all speakers when it occurs. Additionally, teams working on new ideas often find that a whiteboard improves group understanding and iteration. And a lesser-known fact is that some of the best inventions had their breakthrough moments when people stayed behind in a meeting and worked through ideas on a whiteboard, or walked back to an office together on the way back from the meeting, or am later in the day with one Dropped by a teammate’s office with other thoughts. Invention is often sloppy. It wanders and meanders and marinates. Random interactions help with that, and there’s more of that in person than virtual
– Learning from each other is easier in person. Being able to walk a few feet to someone’s room and ask them how they should do something or how they handled a certain situation is much easier than ringing or weakening them. Although people can use instant messaging, they just don’t do it often. This training and learning model has been the main reason why many companies that have returned to the office have done so. We have many functions and roles where learning from colleagues is very useful and crucial. And our newer employees, particularly those who have joined us in recent years, are most disadvantaged as they lack the learning and mentoring opportunities of peers that many of us who joined us much earlier had. Ensuring that people continue to develop and grow within the company is not only obviously important to them and their careers, but also critical to our ability to serve customers and the company.
– Teams tend to be more connected when they see each other in person more often. There’s something about coming face to face with someone, looking them in the eye and seeing that they’re completely immersed in what you’re discussing that brings people together. Teams tend to find ways to work through tough and complex compromises faster when they get together and work them out in a room.
These are just a few examples, but they are important in light of our overriding priority of delivering for customers and the company. And ultimately they led us to the conclusion that we should again spend most of our time (at least three days a week) in the office together. We made this decision at an S-Team meeting earlier this week, and for a number of reasons (including adjustments that I know some of our staff will require) I wanted to share it with you as soon as possible possible, although we have not yet worked out all the implementation details. Of course, as before the pandemic, there will be certain roles (e.g. some of our salespeople, account managers, etc.) and exceptions to these expectations, but that will be a small minority. We plan to implement this change effective May 1st.
Bringing many thousands of employees back to our offices around the world isn’t easy, so we’re giving the teams that need to get the job done some time to come up with a plan. We know it won’t be perfect initially, but the office experience will steadily improve over the coming months (and years) as our real estate and facilities teams smooth the wrinkles and ultimately evolve in how we want our offices to be set up to capture the new ways of working that we want. I know people will have questions about how this change will be implemented. We will finalize these details in the coming weeks, so please check Inside Amazon for these updates.
I’m also optimistic that this shift will give a boost to the thousands of businesses around our municipal headquarters in Puget Sound, Virginia, Nashville and the dozens of cities around the world where our employees are going into office. Our communities are important to us, and where we can play another role in helping them recover from the challenges of recent years, we are happy to do so.
I know it will take time for some employees to get used to a new way of working again. But I’m very optimistic about the positive impact this will have on the way we serve and invent on behalf of clients, and on the growth and success of our people.

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