As of Friday the 17th of February, 2023, Andrew (Andy) Jassy announced via a public press release/Amazon News article, that all Amazon employees are to return to office starting May 1st, 2023.
There are a lot of thoughts and emotions being posted in internal Slack, and documented in Wiki, but the main rebuttal to RTO is that it strips individuals of their choice on where to work, what hours they work, and how they structure their work day.
After more than eight years working for Amazon Web Services, I can wholeheartedly agree with that statement. This request for everyone to work in office, is going to have detrimental knock-on effects for everyone.
Working from home (WFH) has granted me the ability to care for and deeply connect with my two young sons since March 2020. Those moments cannot be bought. No amount of income can replace the time you have available to be with your kids.
Some of this extra time is spent working extended hours. It’s easy to do when you only have to walk a short distance back and forth from a home office. Or when you can bring a laptop to the kitchen and prepare lunch or dinner for family while answering messages or collaborating after-hours with colleagues on a Slack Huddle. Breaking up your day is also possible, especially when working with someone on the other side of world.
Need to occasionally trade midday hours for working at night? Easy to do when WFH. You want to take your child to swim lessons shortly after business hours? Manageable. Need to make an appointment near your home? Doable.
I have three hours of time in my day that would end up being wasted by driving between home and downtown Seattle. It would be four to five hours in commute time if I utilized public transit in the Puget Sound area. Not including time spent getting ready to leave home or leave the office, or drive my car to and from the transit station.
In the last 8 years, I’ve ridden from South Tacoma station to King Street Station by Train, and to the Mayday office by bus. In 2015 I purchased a motorcycle to make use of the HOV lane to speed up my commute and get away from the majority of distracted drivers on I-5. I watched as I-5 gridlocked later and later into the morning and evening, making commuting worse each year.
Work from home due to COVID, has been one of the greatest improvements to work-life balance I’ve experienced. No one should be forced into an office when their entire job is capable of being performed remotely. It’s not good for the community, requires us to waste our money on burning fuel, contributes to excess pollution, and wastes precious hours from our lives.
When employees are forced back to the office, the end of business hours becomes a hard stop. Those extra hours get taken up by commute time. And in my opinion, those extra commute hours are business hours.