Amazon will allow many employees to work remotely, indefinitely. Affected companies react

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Amazon will allow many technicians and corporate employees to continue working remotely indefinitely, as long as they can make it to the office if necessary, according to a blog posted Monday. This changes from previous Amazon expectations that most employees should be in the office at least three days a week after offices reopen in January.

Monday’s post, signed by Amazon CEO Andy Jassy, ​​explains that Amazon directors – a title in the company meaning an executive who oversees a handful of teams – will have the discretion to authorize teams under their responsibility to remain at a distance.

“We expect that there will be teams who will continue to work primarily remotely, others who will work remotely and in the office, and still others who will decide that clients are best served if the team is working. mainly in the office, ”Jassy wrote. “We don’t intentionally prescribe how many days or which days – it’s up to directors to determine with their executives and teams.”

The new policy, which applies to nearly 60,000 Amazon office workers in the Puget Sound area, is likely to stir up concerns among business owners in South Lake Union and further complicate forecasts for l future of the Seattle office market. Amazon employees, meanwhile, seemed largely baffled by the announcement, with some saying it remains to be seen how many teams will actually be granted permission to work remotely.

Allowing longer-term remote working could give Amazon more flexibility to meet President Joe Biden’s national mandate, announced last month, that companies with more than 100 employees must either require workers to be vaccinated or regularly test for the coronavirus. Amazon has been reluctant to demand that its employees get vaccinated, fearing that many of its warehouse workers will quit in protest.

In the blog post, Jassy thanked Amazon employees who were unable to work remotely during the pandemic “for their passion. It’s very appreciated. These workers include the vast majority of Amazon’s more than one million employees worldwide, who work in the company’s fulfillment and transportation divisions, as well as in its AWS data center and employees. physical retail. About 20,000 Amazon employees in Washington state work in the company’s warehouses.

Amazon’s update to its return to work policy follows similar initiatives from other tech giants. Microsoft announced last month that it had indefinitely postponed the reopening of its offices; Google said it expects about 20% of its workforce to continue to telecommute full-time.

This emerging consensus around remote working will likely worsen the problems for small businesses in downtown Seattle, even as tourism rebounds. Recent data from the Downtown Seattle Association indicates that only about a quarter of office workers in Seattle’s urban core have returned to their desks.

The company’s new policy could dash hopes for restaurants, cafes, barber shops, gyms and other businesses on the ground floor of the Amazon South Lake Union campus, which predicted that foot traffic and revenue would increase a time that Amazon has completely reopened its offices in the neighborhood next year.

“We have definitely seen the workers return to these towers as the light at the end of the tunnel,” said Jeremy Price, co-owner of the Sea Creatures restaurant group.

The company operates four businesses in South Lake Union, including an upscale Italian restaurant and bar inside the Amazon spheres.

“Restaurants have really suffered in the last 18 or 19 months, not having people there,” Price said.

Restaurants and stores once reliant on lunchtime crash of badge-wearing Amazon employees say they’re relying on the people who live in the neighborhood, construction workers and the employee net from Amazon who are already back in the office.

For Seattle Coffee Works, which operates a coffee shop in the Cascade neighborhood, Amazon’s announcement is “disheartening,” said CEO Heather Schmidt.

The coffee company has stepped up its subscription offerings during the pandemic and relied on customers who live near its cafes when office buildings fell silent.

“We can’t count on just one company to back us up. We’re here for the whole community, ”Schmidt said.

Price Estimates Sea Creatures’ South Lake Union restaurants account for approximately 70% of pre-pandemic activity. Amazon, as the owner of the restaurants, has forgiven the rent from the start of the pandemic – “a lifeline” until business returns, Price said.

“I can understand where they’re coming from, but it’s difficult for anyone who made that decision,” Price said.

Amazon’s decision to work remotely also adds uncertainty to attempts to forecast future demand for office space in city centers. The company, the largest occupant of office space in Seattle, has long had a disproportionate effect on the local office market.

The amount of vacant office space in the region has increased this year amid the reluctance of many companies to force a return to offices during an increase in COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant.

Commercial real estate brokers, however, remained bullish, saying the Amazon office projects under construction in the Eastside are a sign the company expects offices to remain relevant in the long term.

With the construction of new offices in the Eastside for Amazon, “I just can’t believe they’re going to commit to all of these rental rates and not fill them out,” said Brian Hatcher, president of the company. of Kidder Mathews Commercial Brokerage. Hatcher predicts a possible return to office work.

“I just don’t think that makes a difference,” Hatcher said of Amazon’s announcement.

If this signals a longer term policy, this move could cement the trends of the pandemic era in the housing market. As remote working took hold last year, renters and homebuyers looked further away from expensive city centers and suburbs have exploded. Meanwhile, demand for city rentals and condos has plummeted.

Amazon employees looking to buy homes “can now look further,” said Matthew Gardner, chief economist at Windermere. “They can move further to Snohomish, Pierce, maybe Kitsap.”

On social media and in interviews, Amazon employees seemed reluctant to conclude that the new policy was a significant relaxation of the company’s previous stance on remote working.

The new policy “doesn’t seem very meaningful to me,” an Amazon office worker in Seattle said in an interview on Monday, who asked not to be named in order to speak out freely. “The previous assumption was basically that a manager wouldn’t approve of one-on-one remote work without a very good reason, so I’m not very optimistic that will change.”


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