Amazon workers hold signs during a protest at the company’s headquarters on May 31, 2023 in Seattle, Washington.
David Ryder | Getty Images News | Getty Images
as part of Amazon’s In an aggressive effort to bring workers back into the office, the company is going a step further and requiring some employees to relocate to a central hub to be with their teams. Those unwilling or unable to comply are being forced to find work elsewhere, and some are choosing to quit, CNBC has learned.
Several employees spoke to CNBC about the new relocation request. A remote worker in Texas said managers were confident in March that nothing would change despite the back-to-office mandate (RTO) given to his team the previous month. But in July, the team was told by management that they had to choose between working in Seattle, New York, Austin or Arlington, Virginia, according to internal correspondence.
According to the guidelines, remote workers are expected to complete the migration to the main center by the first half of 2024, the document said. The employee, who did not live near any of the designated cities, chose to leave Amazon after securing another position, in part due to uncertainty about future job security and the potential for higher living costs with no guarantee of a pay raise.
The person did not want to be named to avoid retaliation. CNBC spoke with three other employees in similar situations, who asked to remain anonymous.
Amazon spokesman Rob Munoz confirmed the transfer policy, saying it affects a small portion of the company’s workforce. Amazon said the hub locations vary by team, and each team determines which locations are their hubs. The Company will provide relocation benefits to employees who are required to relocate.
“It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, so we’ve decided it’s best to reach out directly to the affected teams and individuals to ensure they get the accurate information that applies to them,” Munoz said. statement. “If an individual feels they don’t have the information they need, we encourage them to speak to their HR business partner or manager.”
The relocation request raises tensions between Amazon and its roughly 350,000 corporate employees over RTO plans after many workers moved out during the covid pandemic.
In May, Amazon began requiring employees to work in physical offices at least three days a week and switched to a policy that leaves it up to individual managers to decide how often team members should be in the office. CEO Andy Jassy extolled the benefits of self-employment, saying it led to a stronger company culture and collaboration among employees.
After the mandate, a group of employees walked out of the company’s headquarters in Seattle in protest. Workers also criticized Amazon’s handling of its decision to lay off 27,000 people as part of job cuts that began last year.
The company is also cutting costs elsewhere. Amazon said it will end a bonus next year that lets employees buy one free drink at in-office coffee shops. The company also cut parking fees and stopped offering free Uber rides to and from work, employees said.
Amazon said it still pays for public transportation for employees in all major metro areas and provides free commuter shuttles and campus shuttles.
Some employees were reprimanded
RTO has been a particularly difficult subject and difficult to implement. Amazon notified some employees earlier this month that they “did not meet our expectations to join your colleagues in the office at least three days a week,” according to a copy of the memo seen by CNBC. “Now we expect you to come to the office three or more days a week.”
According to one employee, some employees who received this notice were eligible for the mandate, while others took vacation or sick leave approved by their managers. Employees expressed frustration with the notice in comments on an internal support ticket, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
Amazon responded to the ticket, explaining that the notice was sent to employees it determined had been engaged less than three days per week for at least five of the last eight weeks or at least three of the last four weeks.
“If you believe you received this email in error, please contact your manager to discuss your situation and ensure it is accurately reflected in the system,” the company said on its support website.
Amazon has confirmed the authenticity of the internal correspondence. Amazon says it calls its employees into the office three days a week because it feels it will be good for the company’s culture.
“We knew there would be an adjustment period, so we worked to support people as they established their routines,” Munoz said in a statement. “With three months under our belt and more people back in the office, we reiterate our expectation that people join their teammates in the office for at least three days.”
Andy Jassy, CEO of Amazon.Com Inc., during the GeekWire Summit, Tuesday, October 5, 2021, in Seattle, Washington, US.
David Ryder | Bloomberg | Getty Images
For employees affected by the relocation policy, Amazon is asking them to relocate to a designated center, which could be Seattle, Arlington, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, or another main office. Some workers see it as a sharp reversal from the company’s approach during the pandemic, when Amazon ramped up hiring outside Seattle and Silicon Valley and pledged to expand its presence in markets such as Phoenix, Dallas and San Diego.
Workers who spoke to CNBC said they saw the relocation request as onerous and a significant intrusion into their personal lives. In some cases, employees are required to move out of state, which may require them to break their leases or move their children to new schools.
Amazon has notified employees individually of the change, but the company has not released any official information to the broader workforce. In late July, managers began notifying employees that they would soon be expected to work from the main center and could choose between moving, finding another job internally or resigning. Some have 30 to 60 days to make a decision, officials said.
Three employees based in different locations—Colorado, Utah, and California—were each asked to relocate to Seattle. They told CNBC that they chose to leave Amazon because the move would burden them financially or put too much of a burden on their families.
The workers said the relocation request made little sense because they already live within walking or walking distance of an Amazon office and work in person three days a week.
Moving to a new position within the company is easier said than done. Amazon halted corporate hiring last November as part of a broader effort to cut costs, meaning fewer jobs. Employees told CNBC that they couldn’t find much that matched their experience in their current office.
Still, layoffs are a tough decision to make as companies, particularly in the tech industry, have been downsizing over the past year to account for rising inflation and economic uncertainty.
The crackdown on Amazon is causing the rules to be bent a bit. In a story last week about some of the RTO changes, Insider reported that some employees considered or agreed to use a family member’s address near an Amazon office and then used the time they were given to relocate to look for another job.
Adding to that, the relocation request and Amazon’s broader effort to bring people into the office make it feel like management is “trying to make it less fun to work there,” said the Colorado-based employee who was asked to move.
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