As the world still navigates the new variants of the pandemic and fluctuating public health policies, remote work is becoming the norm across several industries, including giants like Amazon, Google, and Facebook.
Amazon’s chief executive Andy Jassy confirmed this company-wide policy in a message addressed to Amazon employees. Workers that can still perform necessary tasks remotely will have the freedom to do so, provided that individual directors and team leads permit them.
Current Amazon Policy
In the statement, Jassy emphasizes the unprecedented times we live in today. Navigating the pandemic experience is new to all of us, and it has been a struggle felt across most, if not all, businesses these past few years.
Jassy has not yet made any sweeping statements, especially ones that will apply long-term, as COVID-19 restrictions are still subject to change.
Instead, Jassy suggested a more decentralized approach to the subject of remote work within the company. He decided to forgo a company-wide policy on remote work, opting instead for individual directors or team leaders to make decisions based on their team’s current situation.
The possibility for remote work has increased, especially for office jobs and sales support-–areas where workers can still perform their tasks outside a brick-and-mortar office.
However, workers in the Amazon’s fulfillment and transportation divisions, AWS data centers, and physical stores won’t enjoy the same flexibility. The same goes for product designers and testers since the nature of their jobs requires them to work on-site.
Amazon set these policies to maintain company performance and customer service while addressing employees’ well-being amidst the pandemic.
In March of 2021, Amazon announced that it wanted to go back to an “office-centric” culture. Around 10 percent of its corporate workforce in Asia were already back in the office at the time, and Amazon wanted the rest of its employees to follow suit.
“Our plan is to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline,” Amazon addressed employees in the March 30, 2021 memo. “We believe it enables us to invent, collaborate, and learn together most effectively.”
They then changed the requirement for workers to be on-site at least three days a week. They planned to implement the return in June, then September, then finally to January due to the emergence of the COVID-19 Delta variant.
Come January 2022, the COVID-19 Omicron variant came in full force, and Amazon had to concede to the overwhelming need for a remote working setup. This flexible arrangement remains in place up until the foreseeable future.
The State of Work Amid a Pandemic
The closure of many businesses at the beginning of the pandemic marked the beginning of a new era. It resulted in several layoffs, with unemployment rates reaching 14.8 percent in April 2020.
The rest of the workforce (save for healthcare workers and other essential workers) turned to remote arrangements. Physical locations either completely closed down or maintained operations at a limited capacity.
Even as some states lift their restrictions, many now prefer working remotely whenever possible. Around 54 percent of workers would like to continue working from home, even in a post-pandemic world.
Although the transition isn’t perfect, most new remote workers report a relatively easy transition from on-site work to working from home.
Still, not every worker gets to experience the joys of remote work. Working from home remains exclusive to mostly corporate or office jobs. Blue-collar workers and other people in low-income jobs still need to brave the perils of the pandemic and work on-site.
Governments worldwide have been dealing with the pandemic for nearly two years now, and people have seen lockdown after lockdown, followed by periods of leniency. More often than not, cases would spike again, or a new COVID-19 variant would be discovered, warranting another period of restrictions.
After the massive Omicron wave that shook the world late last year and early this year, countries like the United States are slowly opening up again. Despite this, businesses remain hesitant about reopening on-site work completely.
Not Like Before
Many major companies have made peace with the fact that it would probably take a while before they can go back to business as usual. Some even theorize that the pandemic has changed the world and our working arrangements for good.
Amazon’s most recent statement reflects this. Even their CEO Andy Jassy has reiterated the same points in various interviews. He advises other companies to do the same and remain flexible in order to succeed in a pandemic-ridden world. This includes dealing with payroll and international transfers in multinational companies.
“You need to adapt. When you have to do something really discontinuous overnight, like moving from your office where you work to your home, you have to change the way you operate,” Jassy said.
“I don’t think you’re going to have people coming back to the office 100 percent of the time the way that they did before,” he emphasized in an interview with CNBC. “I think there’s going to be some type of hybrid model, and I think it will probably differ depending on your job function.”