16,000 Amazon workers have joined a Slack channel and launched a petition to fight CEO Andy Jassy’s mandate to return to the office
It’s been a bumpy week at Amazon, and now boss Andy Jassy has got another headache to deal with after staff pushed back hard against a request to come back to the office three days a week.
On Friday, Jassy told staff in an internal company memo that they needed to be back in the office the “majority of the time”—adding it should be at least three days a week. His justification was that “when you’re in person, people tend to be more engaged, observant, and attuned to what’s happening in the meetings and the cultural clues being communicated.”
The return-to-office call came as staff worry they may see their income reduced by 50% below the company’s compensation targets because of the business’s slumped share price—down 35% in the past year. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, corporate staff at Amazon get a chunk of their wages in restricted stock units.
Now, it seems like disgruntled staff aren’t taking Jassy’s latest decree lying down. Screenshots shared with Insider reportedly show a Slack channel titled “Remote Advocacy” reaching 5,000 members of staff within hours of the memo going out.
The channel, which advocates for a more hybrid model, asks for data, anecdotes, and articles about the benefits of remote work to help support the campaign. As of close of day Tuesday, 16,000 Amazon employees were reportedly on the channel.
Asked about the Remote Advocacy channel, Rob Munoz, an Amazon spokesperson, told Fortune: “We believe being in the office together reinforces our culture, fosters collaboration and invention, creates learning opportunities, and builds more connected teams.
“As a company with hundreds of thousands of corporate employees, we know any decision we make around how and where we work will invite differing opinions, and we respect the right of employees to share those opinions with one another and with leadership.”
Jassy‘s memo, shared with Fortune, adds the senior leadership team realized the return to office “wouldn’t be perfect at first” and promised to share finalized details in the coming weeks. Amazon is far from the first major employer—or even Big Tech company—to ask staff to come back, following in the footsteps of Disney, Starbucks, Goldman Sachs, Google, and Salesforce to name a few.
According to reports, some senior members of staff—including Jassy himself—were potentially going to be added to the channel, but this suggestion was quickly axed by employees, fearing the execs would shut the channel down.
What’s being said on Slack?
According to Insider, the contents of the channel range from snap polls—80% of respondents say they’d look to leave the business if the change goes through—to furious feedback, to the launch of a petition.
The screenshots show one staff member writing, “This is going to be absolute chaos and make everyone’s work distracted for probably a quarter, maybe longer. It’s hard to be productive with so much uncertainty injected into our lives.”
Another chimed in that the proposition was “untenable” as they would need to drive for 12 hours a week to reach the offices. Others echoed the fact that they had moved away from metropolitan areas near Amazon offices in anticipation of working remotely and would face either more expensive commutes or rent in order to make the transition work.
According to two sources familiar with the situation, senior managers were not in the loop about the announcement which came out on Friday. Some added the mandate was vague or confusing, given the fact assigned desks for certain teams have reportedly been scrapped in recent weeks.
What’s in the petition?
“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.
“We ask Amazon leadership to uphold Amazon’s mission to be Earth’s Best Employer by creating working policies that increase equity and inclusion for all employees,” an early draft of the petition seen by Insider reads.
Instead of outright engaging with a return to the office, the petition cites internal data around how much they would like to go back: 31% would gladly return one to two days a week, 56% said they wanted monthly sync-ups in the office.
The petition—signed by 5,000 employees according to CNBC—breaks their feedback down into six key topics: remote work increases worker productivity (internal data claims 93% said their focus at home is good compared with just 68% in the office); workers prefer location choice; remote work allows for hiring and developing; remote work saves money for Amazon and Amazonians; remote work improves work-life balance; and in-office work affects parents, minorities, and people with disabilities.
This story was originally featured on Fortune.com
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