FILE — In this file photo the logo of U.S. online retail giant Amazon is seen at the distribution center in Staten Island on March 30, 2020 in New York. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP) (Photo by ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images)

Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

Amid a surge of new coronavirus cases across Washington, Amazon has extended its return-to-office date for workers until early next year.  

Office employees are now scheduled to return to in-person work on Jan. 3, 2022. They were originally slated to return the week of Sept. 7.

The company has not confirmed that the extension came in response to a spike in COVID infections statewide, but the announcement was made just days after the state Department of Health said Washington is averaging 1,500 new cases per day and hospitalizations are up 20% since last week.

Amazon has also stayed mum on whether it will require its employees to be vaccinated against COVID. Microsoft, the company’s Redmond-based rival, announced earlier this week that it would require its employees to be vaccinated when they return to the office. Amazon currently requires that unvaccinated employees wear masks.

The move by Amazon and other tech giants to delay their return-to-work dates for office employees — Microsoft also pushed back its back-to-office opening date; employees were originally scheduled to return in September — marks a bellwether moment. Other companies often look to these large corporations for guidance, which means many businesses could soon follow suit.

The company’s return-to-work policies have evolved in response to changing public health guidelines and employee feedback.

In March, the company indicated that it wanted in-person work to be the norm moving forward. In a memo to employees, the company said, “Our plan is to return to an office-centric culture as our baseline. We believe it enables us to invent, collaborate, and learn together most effectively.”

Amazon walked that back in June, saying it would offer “a mix of working between the office and home,” with employees expected to spend at least three days a week in the office.



 

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