Amazon will let employees work from home until “at least” early October under new guidelines – GeekWire - Freelance Rack

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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Amazon will let employees work from home until “at least” early October under new guidelines – GeekWire

A lone dog walker uses the park near The Spheres at Amazon’s headquarters campus, which has been largely empty since early March. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

Amazon will give employees the option to do their jobs from home until at least early October — extending its remote work guidance by several months.

The move by the Seattle tech giant provides a potential bellwether for other companies in the larger discussion about when and how to bring teams back to the office when the COVID-19 outbreak starts to fade.

“Employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home are welcome to do so until at least October 2,” the company says in an updated internal policy page, viewed by GeekWire on Thursday. “We will continue to evaluate the situation and update this page as needed.”

RELATED: Amazon sales rise 26% to $75B; profits plunge 30%; Bezos calls crisis ‘hardest time we’ve ever faced’

However, the update notes that working from the office “may be another option” prior to that point, with precautions, in accordance with government guidelines in different locations around the world.

The update encourages employees to talk with their managers if they’re interested in working in the office. It adds that “leaders will be provided with resources so that they can tailor plans to meet the unique needs of their teams.”

It’s potentially difficult news for restaurants, shops and service providers that operate in and around Amazon’s sprawling campus north of downtown Seattle, which has been largely empty since early March. The company was one of the first major employers to shift employees to remote work as the COVID-19 crisis rose in the United States. It has offered $10 million in financial assistance to businesses around its Seattle offices impacted by employees working from home.

Prior to this week’s update, Amazon had recommended that corporate employees who could work from home should do so through April 24.

Amazon CFO Brian Olsavsky

The extended period of remote work has impacted some product and content development inside the company. Amazon Studios video production has stopped, for example, and the development of new device features could also be slowed without employees working together in the same office, said Brian Olsavsky, the company’s chief financial officer, in a conference call with reporters after Amazon’s earnings report on Thursday afternoon.

However, he said, “by and large, I believe we’ve been able to make progress even with our work from home situation with office staff,” citing accelerated investment in grocery delivery and fulfillment capacity as examples of initiatives that are moving faster as a result of the circumstances surrounding the pandemic.

“Certainly there’s a lot of a lot of preoccupation right now with the response to the COVID crisis, and trying to be there for customers and employees and having the dual balance of making sure that we have the safest workplace possible, while also being there for customers at the same time,” Olsavsky said.

Amazon confirmed the updated internal guidance in response to GeekWire’s inquiry on Thursday.

“We will continue to prioritize the health of our employees and follow local government guidance,” a spokesperson said. “Employees who work in a role that can effectively be done from home are welcome to do so until at least October 2. We are working hard and investing significant funds to keep those who choose to come to the office safe through physical distancing, deep cleaning, temperature checks, and the availability of face coverings and hand sanitizer.”

Amazon outlined the steps that it’s taking to implement new safeguards across the company as part of its earnings report on Thursday afternoon. The company told investors it will spend $4 billion this quarter on initiatives responding to COVID-19 and related issues.

Much of the focus in the midst of the outbreak has been on improving safeguards in Amazon’s distribution network and retail stores. Workers in dozens of Amazon fulfillment centers have been diagnosed with the disease. Amazon has declined to disclose the total numbers. The company says it has procured 100 million face masks for workers, and is conducting daily temperature checks for employees at its operations sites and retail stores, including Whole Foods Market, among other initiatives.

Other companies are also extending their remote work timelines. Zillow Group, for example, gave employees the option to work from home until the end of the year. With more than 900,000 employees around the world, Amazon’s policies and decisions can have an outsized impact, and inform the decisions of other companies.

Amazon was among the companies that contributed to a Madrona Venture Group “Back to Work Toolkit” with guidance for companies on reopening their workplaces.

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