Learning & Development

Amazon Slack Fight Illustrates Divisiveness of Return-to-Work Question

We hear a lot about the tug of war between organizations and employees when it comes to the future of widespread remote work in the post-COVID world. But that narrative hides the fact that employees themselves aren’t a monolith when it comes to preferences around remote work. An internal battle raging at online retail giant Amazon illustrates the diversity of preferences among employees themselves.

Battle Brewing at Amazon

“A tug of war is brewing at Amazon over the company’s new return-to-office [RTO] plan,” writes Eugene Kim in an article for Business Insider. “Hundreds of Amazon employees joined a new Slack channel last week that supports the company’s new return-to-office policy, Insider has learned—just days after a much larger group of staff rushed to a separate Slack channel that’s fighting against the RTO mandate. The description of the new Slack channel says it intends to ‘Think Big’ about the benefits of the RTO plan, which is in ‘danger’ of getting overturned by the opposing ‘remote advocacy’ group.”

Taking Sides

It’s clear there’s a difference of opinion at Amazon, with employees split between those who want to return to work and those who prefer remaining remote. Kim reports that as of February 27, 2023, “the RTO supporting channel drew just a little over 750 people, versus the 28,000-plus in the opposing channel.”

But that advantage in sentiment doesn’t translate into the ability to influence corporate policy.

Amazon’s new RTO policy requires most corporate workers to come into the office three times a week starting in May—something Kim says is likely to remain a source of contention for the foreseeable future. “Shortly after Amazon CEO Andy Jassy made the announcement on February 17, thousands of employees joined the ‘remote advocacy’ Slack channel to criticize the change, organizing a new petition to formally reject it, as Insider previously reported,” he writes.

The key consideration for companies that can make it work is flexibility. In a company the size of Amazon, it may not be realistic to mandate a single policy across all of its seven-figure head count. Even companies a fraction of Amazon’s size might find it beneficial to allow flexibility and personalization in remote work policies.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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