The debate around working from home has been going on since the waning days of the pandemic. At Amazon, CEO Andy Jassy wants to leave no doubt about it: he wants employees to be in the office at least three days a week. In doing so, in a leaked internal meeting he refused to provide data to support that decision. Tech companies maintain strongly divergent policies, as the episode reminds us.
Jassy has explained many times that he would like to see Amazon employees return to the office. In a February update this year, he listed his position: working together on projects in the office would lead to more innovation, faster interactions and better integration of new colleagues.
In principle, there is much to be said for these ideas, although research by Envoy showed that gut feelings have mostly guided similar decisions to return to the office. Many business leaders are said to have acted hastily and would have acted differently with more information about productivity and working conditions.
Lack of data
Business Insider managed to obtain a recording of an internal “fishbowl” meeting for Amazon employees. Jassy’s patience reportedly gradually ran out during that conversation. Those who do not work three days a week in the office no longer seem to be welcome at the tech company. For those who stay away, “it’s probably not going to work out,” Jassy stated.
Despite repeated requests to back up this decision with data, the Amazon CEO did not respond. “It’s too late to disagree,” he said. “It’s not right that all of our teammates are in the office three days a week while others refuse to do so.” Earlier, it was revealed that office refusers could face forced departure after 30,000 Amazon employees signed a petition against the Return to Office (RTO) mandate.
The bigger the company, the stricter the policy?
Amazon’s example may be a bit more extreme than elsewhere, but other tech giants are also facing similar discussions. Elon Musk called working from home “morally reprehensible,” while IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said working remotely can hurt your career. Even at Zoom, employees are required to return to the office.
Thus, it seems that big tech in particular chooses to demand office visits. Yet there are also large companies that continue to support remote work. Atlassian, Airbnb, Dropbox and Okta, among others, have not made a similar requirement to come back to the office. Ultimately, even those parties may be asked what they base this on. A permanent policy prioritizing working from home is a competitive advantage in job postings. However, research has also shown that merely working remotely is less productive than also visiting the office structurally.
In other words, those who look for it can find data to make an informed decision about the balance between working from home and in the office. Beyodn that, it also seems to help to have that accumulated knowledge ready to deliver when it’s time to explain the policy to employees.