Amazon expects some employees to return to the office this summer

The Amazon headquarters sits virtually empty on March 10, 2020 in downtown Seattle, Washington. In response to the coronavirus outbreak, Amazon recommended all employees in its Seattle office to work from home, leaving much of downtown nearly void of people.

John Moore | Getty Images

Amazon has issued new guidance on its return-to-work plans that indicates it doesn’t plan to ditch its offices anytime soon.

The company expects some of its employees to start coming back to the office as early as this summer, Amazon said in a memo to employees on Tuesday. Most of the company’s staff will likely be in the office by the fall.

The plans signal that Amazon doesn’t intend to follow in the footsteps of other tech companies, by allowing employees to continue to work remotely or via a hybrid model. Microsoft, Facebook, Salesforce, Twitter and Square have all embraced the possibility of more remote work after the pandemic.

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

Some of Amazon’s employees in Asia are already back in the office. Roughly 10% of its corporate population “currently works from an office each day,” the company said.

Amazon emphasized in the memo that it expects the return-to-work process to be gradual. The timelines for returning to the office will vary by country, depending on the infection and vaccination rates, Amazon said. The company will continue to require social distancing, face masks, office occupancy limits, temperature screenings and other safety measures at its offices.

Amazon previously told employees they could work from home through June. The company’s warehouse workers, Whole Foods workers and other front-line employees have continued to report to work throughout the pandemic.

The company first hinted at a return to office-based work last year. Amazon announced last August that it would expand its physical offices in six major cities: Dallas, Detroit, Denver, New York, Phoenix and San Diego, which amounts to 900,000 square feet of new office space.

However, AWS CEO Andy Jassy has acknowledged that there may be room for different types of working environments in a post-pandemic world. Jassy will take over as Amazon CEO later this year when current CEO Jeff Bezos steps down from the role.

“I don’t think you’re going to have people coming back to the office 100% of the time the way they did before,” Jassy told CNBC’s Jon Fortt last December. “I think there’s going to be some type of hybrid model and I think it will probably differ depending on your job function.”

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