With the pandemic easing, returning to the office isn’t so cool for some who’ve settled into working from home.
Last week, over 2,300 Disney employees petitioned against CEO Bob Iger’s request for staffers to return to the office for a Monday-Thursday work week, effective March 1. Today, CNBC reports that there’s a similar revolt going on over at Amazon where several employees advocated against CEO Andy Jassy’s request for employees to return to three days a week starting May 1. A slack channel of Amazon employees, voicing their concerns was created on Friday, and as of today numbered north of 14K.
When Deadline reached out to an Amazon rep about the situation, they referred us to Jassy’s Friday memo to staff.
Said Jassy then, “It’s not simple to bring many thousands of employees back to our offices around the world, so we’re going to give the teams that need to do that work some time to develop a plan. We know that it won’t be perfect at first, but the office experience will steadily improve over the coming months (and years) as our real estate and facilities teams smooth out the wrinkles, and ultimately keep evolving how we want our offices to be set up to capture the new ways we want to work. I know people will have questions about how this change will be implemented. We’ll be finalizing those details in the coming weeks, so please check Inside Amazon for those updates.”
“We, the undersigned, call for Amazon to protect its role and status as a global retail and tech leader by immediately cancelling the RTO policy and issuing a new policy that allows employees to work remotely or more flexibly, if they choose to do so, as their team and job role permits,” according to a draft of the petition, which was reported by Business Insider.
The petition included stats showing how remote work is better for productivity, reduces expenses and attracts top talent. Of concern was how a return-to-in-person would impact those parents, minorities, caregivers and people with disabilities.
Disney and Amazon aren’t the only large employers trying to get back to normal. The nation’s largest such entity, the federal government, will let its Covid state of emergency lapse in May, which means the extraordinary powers it conferred — e.g. making employers comply with Covid measures or forcing insurers to cover Covid tests — will no longer be available. Closer to Hollywood, California’s Covid state of emergency expires much sooner, on February 28.
Last April, Deadline ran a story titled “WarnerMedia Employees Asked To Return To Office On Short Notice By Warner Bros. Discovery.” WarnerMedia employees were upset over a memo they received earlier in the day by Warner Bros. Discovery’s chief people and culture officer, Adria Alpert Romm. In it, Romm informed staffers that they would be required to be in the office at least three times a week by June 1 (2022) and could ease into that hybrid schedule by starting to go to the office at least twice a week in May.
One remark on the story that received a huge response reads, “From an employee that has been with Warner for over 20 years…this really feels like McDonalds has bought a Michelin star restaurant and thinks they know how to run it.”
Jassy and Iger share similar viewpoints on returning to the office. For the former, his note details how working together makes it “easier to learn, model, practice, and strengthen our culture” and “collaborating and inventing is easier and more effective when we’re in person.”
Iger emphasized in his Jan. 9 memo, “In a creative business like ours, nothing can replace the ability to connect, observe, and create with peers that comes from being physically together, nor the opportunity to grow professionally by learning from leaders and mentors. It is my belief that working together more in-person will benefit the Company’s creativity, culture, and our employees’ careers.”
The Washington Post first reported that those petitioning against a return-to-office at Disney came from such divisions as ABC, 20th Century Studios, Marvel Studios, Hulu, Pixar and FX. Those preferring to work remotely at the Mouse House argued that productivity would be impacted for the negative, as well as efficiencies and output. They also believed that returning to in-person would spur resource shortages and resignations.
Amazon employees are upset as Jassy’s previous statements for a hybrid workplace extolled that one size doesn’t fit all. According to reports, those Amazon employees concerned are those who were hired to work remote roles outside the shopping site/streamer’s key hubs of Seattle, New York and Northern California.
“Of course, as there were before the pandemic, there will still be certain roles (e.g. some of our salespeople, customer support, etc.) and exceptions to these expectations, but that will be a small minority,” said Jassy.
Deadline reached out to Disney who provided no comment on the return-to-work petition.
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