Amazon's remote work plans may be more flexible and longer-term than indicated, employees say: 'I'd be shocked if we ever return to the office'

  • Amazon's remote work plans may be more flexible and longer-term than the company has previously indicated, according to information shared with Business Insider by current employees.
  • Amazon has officially said some employees can work from home until June 30, 2021.
  • Amazon has asked at least some employees at a Seattle headquarters building where many cloud computing employees work to clean out their desks, and has allowed others to permanently switch to a "virtual employee" designation.
  • Amazon declined to say whether the company plans to adopt a hybrid work model or allow for more permanently remote roles. However, a spokesperson said it would be premature for Amazon to make a commitment one way or the other, under the present circumstances.
  • Are you an Amazon Web Services employee? Contact this reporter via the encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-425-344-8242) or email ([email protected]).
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

The official guidance from Amazon is some employees can work from home until next summer, but information from three employees suggests the company may have longer-term plans for a more flexible working environment.

Amazon has asked at least some employees at a Seattle headquarters building to clean out their desks, and has allowed others to permanently switch to a virtual employee designation previously reserved for those who live far from regional offices. 

"I'd be shocked if we ever return to the office," one employee said. Business Insider is not naming the employees because they are not authorized to speak on internal company matters, but their identities are known to us. 

Officially, Amazon has said "employees with work that can effectively be done from home can continue to do that work from home through June 30, 2021." The company declined to comment to Business Insider on whether it plans to adopt a hybrid work model or allow for more roles to go permanently remote.

A spokesperson did say, however, that it would be premature for Amazon to make long-term decisions one way or the other, and that the company hopes to return to more normal office operations when local authorities allow and vaccines before available. 

One employee said they were asked to move out of one of Amazon's Seattle headquarters buildings, called Blackfoot, a major hub for Amazon Web Services, the company's market-leading cloud computing business.

Seattle public records show a building permit application in May for a nearly $8.6 million project at the address with plans titled "Blackfoot amenities refresh." There are permit applications for smaller projects filed as recently as Oct. 30. 

It's unclear whether the projects are related to Amazon's remote work policies – and it's worth noting that there's nothing unusual about asking employees to remove personal belongings ahead of a significant office construction process.

Still, the company has allowed some employees to switch to permanent remote work through what's called a "virtual employee designation," two employees told Business Insider. Before the pandemic, it was usually reserved for employees who lived far from a regional office, but Amazon has since become more flexible.

One employee said the designation allows employees to live anywhere in the US without any change in compensation, with the exception of employees who are leaving especially high cost-of-living areas in New York and San Francisco.

Amazon declined to comment on compensation, but allowing employees to move in most cases without adjustments to compensation would run counter to policies from other tech-industry giants like Facebook and Microsoft. Microsoft, for example, requires employees to take a pay cut or even a raise if they are approved to move to a new location.

All three employees who spoke to Business Insider about Amazon's flexible work policies said they seemed to vary by organization and team. In general, most flexibility is offered to corporate employees, versus the hundreds of thousands of employees who work in Amazon's warehouses and fulfillment network.

The Amazon spokesperson said offices remain open now for employees whose role requires access, and Amazon has "invested significant funds and resources to keep those who choose to come to the office safe through physical distancing, deep cleaning, temperature checks, and by providing face coverings and hand sanitizer."

Got a tip? Contact reporter Ashley Stewart via encrypted messaging app Signal (+1-425-344-8242) or email ([email protected]).

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