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Amazon's return-to-work policy has employees anxious, businesses hopeful

Employees might not be in favor of it, but local Seattle businesses are eagerly awaiting Amazon's return to work.

SEATTLE — Monday ushers in a new era for Amazon as corporate staff start returning to the office for work at least three days a week.

It means tens of thousands of employees will be back in downtown Seattle, marking a big policy shift for the tech giant and a big change for the city post-pandemic.

Businesses in and around Amazon's South Lake Union campus are hoping it also means a boost to their bottom line.

"We're totally looking forward to it, we've been planning for it for a few weeks now and we've actually had meetings with Amazon," said Joseph Smith, who manages the Middle Eastern eatery Manna, which opened on the corner of Terry and Republican last summer. 

Smith says since then, business has been slow. So slow in fact he's predicting a jump in sales by a couple hundred percent. 

"Zero to 60 in about two weeks," Smith said adding they worked on their systems to be more efficient and also updated their presence on third-party delivery apps all to cash in on the lunchtime rush.

"DoorDash accounts for less than 10% of our sales right now," said Smith. 

While businesses are hopeful, the new policy is causing anxiety among some employees who are calling for more transparency from the tech giant.

"If you were doing your work and you were productive doing it in your previous working situation, and now being told to do your work in this specific space these times a week," said one employee who wishes to remain anonymous. 

He says it's the controlling party that is most frustrating, especially after being hired during the pandemic and under the impression he would be able to continue working from home. 

"I also learned that each department head is going to start tracking...how many are coming in those three days a week," said the employee, who isn't alone. 

KING 5 obtained a picture of a Slack channel called "Remote Advocacy" that has more than 33,000 people in it posting concerns and questions about the return.

A letter from leadership in response to a petition signed by employees to stop the rollout reads in part: “the guiding principle used in our decision making was to prioritize what would enable us to make our customers' lives better and easier every day, and relentlessly invent to do so."

While it's unclear if and how the new policy will be enforced, the employee says, "As much as I am complaining, if I need to comply I'll probably comply." He hopes for more transparency from Amazon in the future. 

An Amazon spokesperson did respond to our request for comment about the rollout which reads in full:

"We're excited to have employees coming into the office more regularly because we believe it builds culture and connection among our teams and drives innovation on behalf of customers. Adjusting to a new way of working will take some time, and we'll continue to keep employees updated on the latest information and address personal circumstances on an individual basis."

Employees are also not expected back in the office until their building is ready.

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