- Amazon is mandating that employees return to the office at least three days a week starting in May.
- One employee says she was initially excited but realized she won’t gain much from it since her team is geographically dispersed.
- She’s now quitting to work somewhere with a stronger in-office presence.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with an Amazon employee who is quitting to work somewhere with a stronger in-person work culture. Insider has verified their employment, but isn’t naming them in order to protect their career. This essay has been edited for length and clarity.
When I first heard we’d be going back to the office, I was really excited. I like having more compartmentalization to my home and work life. I’m an extrovert, and my work is very collaborative; I really like getting people in a room and talking through something.
During the past few years that we’ve been remote, I feel like I haven’t been able to do my best work. In meetings, most people won’t join on video, so you miss social cues or body language. I assume everybody’s multi-tasking and not really paying attention. I miss in-person collaboration — being able to see if people are tracking or if someone is a bit confused, and getting their insights.
However, I soon realized the office we’re going back to won’t be the same office we had before the pandemic. I’ll never get my old work environment back again, because nobody on my team is actually tagged to the Seattle office now. We’re so geographically dispersed that all the benefits that leadership is talking about won’t be realized by forcing everybody back to the office.
When I realized this, I kind of teared up because I’ve been holding out hope for two years that we’d get back to how it was before, where I felt like I was doing my best work. But now, even with the mandate, yes, I’d be going into the office, but I’d still essentially be working as if I’m remote.
I’ve been coming into the office two or three days a week since late last year, but few other people come, and none of them are my teammates or anyone I otherwise know. So it was basically like I was home: I just dialed into meetings the whole day, and I didn’t really collaborate with anyone in person. It felt like working from a Starbucks.
I think leadership made their decision assuming all teams are co-located or at least clustered between two sites, but that’s just not the reality. So all of these people who have reasons for wanting to work from home will have to trade that in and not get anything decent on the other side.
Knowing now that Amazon’s return to the office won’t be what I wanted, I’m leaving to work somewhere with a stronger in-person culture. It’s crazy because Amazon will probably think I’m quitting because I want to work from home, but it’s actually the opposite.
I feel like access to leadership is key. In previous jobs where I worked with people in lots of different places, at least my leaders were always in my location. At Amazon, I never get to work with my manager in person. In my new job, I will be able to do that.
Looking at our Slack channels about our return to office, there’s a lot of really great insights into the benefits of working for home from perspectives that I hadn’t yet considered. A lot of women say they don’t have to spend as much time working on their appearance while remote versus when they go into the office.
Or for trans people, it might be more comfortable to use their restroom at home and not worry about being misgendered at work.
It feels like most employees prefer to be remote, and I’m the odd one out for wanting to come in. I know remote work is really great for some people, but ultimately it’s just not how I want to work. I think people can agree that working in person has some value, but unless we’re forced to do it, nobody’s going to get out of their pajamas and actually come in.
Right now, a lot of employees feel like there’s this grand announcement with no actual plan or details, so they’re just left wondering, What does this mean for us? Are there enough desks? People are just confused and uncertain as to how Amazon is going to execute this.