Amazon Reveals Its Plans for Opening Up Its Offices

Posted on April 1, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Amazon with 22 Comments

Amazon isn’t buying into the work-from-home future and it expects all of its employees to return to the office by this fall, with some coming back in the summer.

“The timelines for returning to the office will vary by country, depending on the infection and vaccination rates, and we expect our return to the office to be gradual,” the official About Amazon blog notes. “In the U.S., as vaccines become broadly available in the next few months, we expect more people will start coming into the office through the summer, with most back in the office by early fall.”

But here’s where Amazon differs from its contemporaries at Microsoft and Google:

“Our plan is to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline,” the firm says. “We believe it enables us to invent, collaborate, and learn together most effectively.”

Interestingly, Amazon’s offices are open right now, but only about 10 percent of employees are coming into work regularly. To transition back to a more normal office experience, Amazon says it will open its employee restaurants, cafes, and shops “soon,” and that it will “maintain strong safety protocols, such as temperature screenings upon entry, physical distancing guidelines, face-covering requirements, office occupancy limits, and enhanced cleaning in all offices.”

“Over the past year, teams have done incredible work under difficult circumstances, and we’ve learned a lot about the pros and cons of remote work,” Amazon concludes. “We look forward to the day in the not-too-distant future when we can again invent together—safely and in person—on behalf of customers.”

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Comments (23)

23 responses to “Amazon Reveals Its Plans for Opening Up Its Offices”

  1. jbinaz

    I'll be curious to see how the folks at Amazon, especially in technical roles, feel about having to come back to the office. I'm sure there are some that will want to be back every day, but there will be some number that appreciate being at home, at least a few days a week. Will those folks leave for other jobs where they can work remote? Interesting to see what shakes out.

  2. martinm

    Is it just me or does anyone else get that we are still in a pendemic and the numbers are rising, not decreasing. I mean really, just hold on to we vaccine please. Good lord. Sad to see them take a 1950's attitude of needing you in the office.

    • jbinaz

      In reply to MartinM:

      It completely depends on where you are. I know in some places in Europe that they're rising, as are some places here in the States, too, but many places in the States are dropping. I suspect that most of these places that are opening are accounting for a large number of their employees being vaccinated, and that vaccinated people don't appear to be spreading it, and those who do get sick, typically have mild cases.


      And I know in at least Microsoft's case, I don't think they're mandating the return. Which I think is the right course of action.


      I guess my general point is that this is best handled on a regional level as conditions dictate, not some national mandate.

  3. JerryH

    Seems similar to Google actually. Google announced just the other day that they want people back in the office and you will need permission for more than 14 WFH days per year. Both companies definitely not going the route that I had thought that they would.

  4. jdawgnoonan

    I do IT for an HR organization that services about 400,000 people. I, fortunately, telework full time and did before the pandemic. But, our organization as a whole has had better productivity since everyone went to full-time telework than we had prior to it. My organization is spread across the globe and most of the people who most of us actually work with are not colocated anyway. I assume that different occupations and organizations may experience different things, but at my workplace it has been an overall positive. This is not discounting the roughly 10 to 20% of people who actually miss the office, but they are a significant minority.

  5. txag

    I used to live in the congested NE corridor. My commute was a minimum of 90 minutes one way, and it often doubled when traffic was tied up with an accident or weather. So working from home added at least 3 hours to my potential work day. That was a luxury that made working from home a real advantage.

  6. IanYates82

    In reply to lvthunder:

    I'm so glad to live down under these past 12 months (well generally anyway, but especially now). We just had a snap city-wide lockdown in Brisbane for three days because of a cluster of <20 cases linked back to two separate infections.


    It's literally national news when there's a single case of community transmission.


    Otherwise life has been pretty normal for months because we did the hard thing first and squashed the virus. We're spread out naturally compared to the rest of the world, and obvious isolated, but there was still good buy-in from most of the community which resulted in a good outcome. Seeing New Zealand do it, and having a "we can never be beaten by them" rivalry, gave the necessary kick along to see kt through.


    We're not doing so well with vaccination delivery at the moment but hopefully that will improve soon - our supply from Europe was blocked at export, but our local manufacturing of the AZ vaccine is about to bear fruit finally.

  7. richfrantz

    Unpopular opinion, but I think the people who are clamoring to go back to the office don't have a social life outside the office. The people I work with are not my friends, but we are friendly. Not the same thing.

  8. jbinaz

    In reply to lvthunder:

    I know a company with an office in New York City that went from 20,000 sq. ft. to 2,000.


    I'm glad I'm not a commercial real estate broker right now.

  9. bluvg

    In reply to lvthunder:

    Zeus Kerravala over at Nojitter made this comment, which I thought was interesting:


    "The fact is in-person meetings — particularly large ones — aren’t always effective as capturing information, measuring engagement, and doing post-meeting tasks are often done poorly."


    I don't really have hearing issues (listening issues perhaps!), but I love transcription/closed captioning, and am so grateful that it has become much more commonplace. I watch everything with it turned on, as it's very frequent someone pronounces something unusually or you just don't catch something, or you lose concentration briefly. Closed captioning lets you pick up what you missed. There are advantages to in-person meetings, but there are definite advantages to virtual meetings, too.


    Some of this is just a lack of imagination and familiarity--"that's how we've always done it" thinking. Granted, recent technology enables much of WFH, and the timing of the pandemic is pretty extraordinary in that regard. I often use the inverse thought experiment: in this case, imagining most workplaces having always worked from home, and now being forced to consider working in the office. I think it would be a harder sell.

  10. jeff.bane

    I have a feeling a lot more companies than we think are going to be like, ok pandemic over, get back to the office. Not saying all, but I think it's going to be more than people are imagining.

    • bluvg

      In reply to Jeff.Bane:

      As an employee, I'd want to see some hard data showing that people were less productive out of the office. This depends on the company, role, etc., but the pandemic has been the shove needed to show many companies they can do it, and some employees are indeed more productive outside the office. Fewer interruptions. An increased appreciation about being wise in use of collaboration tools. Etc.


      But just as important, the indirect benefits are pretty phenomenal: reduced traffic, reduced time spent commuting, reduced ecological impact, reduced petrol prices, increased vehicle lifespan, reduced spend in general on transportation, etc. etc. If companies aren't taking these benefits to employees and community--and both directly and indirectly to their own best interests--into account, I'd want to hear more clearly (hard data) why their vision isn't rather myopic.

      • fishnet37222

        In reply to bluvg:

        I know I'm more productive in the office. Especially if my internet access is filtered so I can't access Facebook, etc.

        • bluvg

          In reply to fishnet37222:

          I hear some people say likewise, and I'm sure it depends on the person, role, etc. Making it optional--rather than required, or expected--makes much more sense to me. The reference to blocking Facebook, though, suggests the issue is really more personal than an inherent advantage of being in the office. There are plenty of ways to block FB at home.

  11. ph-sth

    Staggered by how many people seem desperate to go back to the office. If you're sitting thinking working at home is hell, remember a good number of people think the same of the office. For me, this past 12 months, in the context of work, have been the best of the more than a decade in my current job, and by a distance. Not because of duties, nor because of workload, but simply because of the ability to control my own working environment. It's been a game changer.


    So many of the arguments for the office are, to me, frankly bizarre. There's also a lack of acknowledgement that the last 12 months have been unusual because of the pandemic. Working from home minus a pandemic is a completely different beast. I read someone on Twitter the other day complaining there wasn't a room in the house they could go where there wasn't a phone call taking place - because, of course, offices are notorious for not having phone calls taking place in them. Others who complain they're working longer hours at home - that's really easy to fix, you just turn your computer off.


    The biggest reveal from all of this is how everyone was previously expected to be the same and fall under the scope of basically mimicking however their manager wants to work. If it were genuinely about work, it would be about empowering employees to work how they can give their best in their role.


    Tech companies, who of all firms should be pushing towards the future, returning to 1970s practices is laughable. Dig out the floppy disks.


    It's 2021, the cat's out of the bag: it's possible, it doesn't need to be one or the other - it's time for choice.

    • jgraebner

      In reply to ph-sth:

      As long as it is a choice. For me, working from home long term isn't a great option, as we don't have an extra room for an office. I have a nice workstation at home, but it is in the living room. If nobody else is at home, that isn't a problem, but it can be more of a hassle when my kid is home from school and/or if my work hours don't overlap with times when my wife is out of the house. Ultimately, even though I'm very capable of doing my job from home, I'm going to be better off working in an office most of the time.


      My employer has already started talking about some teams (possibly including mine) remaining mostly work from home and it isn't clear that there will be a choice.

  12. fishnet37222

    If wearing a mask is a requirement for returning to the office, then I would prefer to remain working from home. I like working in an office setting more than I do working from home, but I hate wearing a mask even more.

  13. red.radar

    I am sure it’s very dependent on the particulars of your job, but in general I think we are less productive in remote work situations.


    It is also reinforces an unhealthy work environment where people are isolated and siloed. They get treated like mushrooms. Alone... kept in the dark and fed crap.


    In person setting gives opportunities for interacting with colleagues you normally wouldn’t see and learn about what they are doing. It makes you more aware what the company is doing and helps develop relationships within your organization. I can accomplish more in 5 minutes in person on the way to the bathroom than a 30 minute block on a calendar in a virtual meeting


    I think a hybrid model would be nice to give some work/life flexibility with families, but in general I think in person work is more productive and gets you to market faster than all remote work.





  14. TechnologyTemperance

    Not too surprised. Would look hypocritical to have your warehouse people (obviously) in person but put a permanent, different, policy in place for office staff.

  15. daniel7878

    Another angle of this is that some people are sitting on their kitchen table with a little laptop screen and screaming spawn. I was full time at home before, so I already have my room and mission control set up. But if one day, with no prep, someone said "go sit at home at your kitchen table and try to be as productive", that would be a joke. Even after a year or more of this, some people just don't have the infrastructure to have a "home office" and be nearly as useful as if they are in an real office.

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