Amazon pushes back return-to-office to January 2022

Seattle-based retail giant Amazon has delayed its return to the office for US corporate employees to January 3, 2022 as COVID-19 cases surge nationally due to the delta variant.

According to a memo obtained by Q13 News, the timeline was pushed back from Sept. 7, 2021.

The memo adds that the return-to-office timeline will "vary globally in accordance with local conditions."

Unlike its Seattle-area rival Microsoft, Amazon will not mandate employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine before they return to the office.

"As we continue to closely watch conditions related to COVID-19, we are adjusting our guidance for corporate employees in the U.S. and other countries where we had previously anticipated our employees would begin coming in regularly the week of Sept. 7," Amazon human resources chief Beth Galetti wrote in an email to employees. "We are now extending this date to Jan. 3, 2022."

Microsoft announced earlier this week it was pushing back its office reopening to October and will require employees to be fully vaccinated against the coronavirus to enter the company’s U.S. offices and other worksites.

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Amazon continues to encourage employees to receive the vaccine, but will not require it, said spokesperson Jose Negrete.

The delay affects the roughly 60,000 people working in Amazon’s offices in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, as well as tens of thousands more corporate Amazon employees worldwide. Amazon is Washington state’s largest private employer, and the delay in the return to office work will be a blow to the many downtown Seattle businesses that rely on the trade of tech workers.

The vast majority of Amazon’s 1.2 million-person global workforce is still expected to show up on-site to pack boxes, sort merchandise and load and unload trucks at Amazon warehouses.

Amazon’s change could add to the challenges faced by Seattle’s traditional business core. In pre-pandemic times, tens of thousands of Amazon workers commuted into the South Lake Union neighborhood north of downtown every day. Most haven’t returned.

More than 450 downtown retailers, restaurants and other street-level business locations have closed permanently in the 16 months since the pandemic sent office workers home, according to a Downtown Seattle Association survey earlier this year.


Amazon Spheres outside of headquarters in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood (Q13 News photo)

Of the roughly 175,000 people who worked in downtown offices before the pandemic, 80% continue to work remotely, according to that association data.

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