Leaked guidelines reveal more details about Amazon’s controversial ‘voluntary resignation’ program for remote workers

  • Amazon shared an internal guideline for some managers to use when discussing the new RTO policy.
  • Amazon is forcing employees to relocate to central “hub” offices.
  • Those who refuse to relocate can be considered a “voluntary resignation” under the new policy.

Amazon recently implemented a “return-to-hub” policy, which requires employees to work from centrally assigned office locations known as hubs.

Those transferring to an office in their current city must now relocate, seek a team change, or obtain special approval to stay — otherwise, they must leave under a “voluntary resignation” program, as Insider first reported.

Insider obtained an internal guide that Amazon distributed to some managers this week to help them discuss the policy with employees. The 10-page document, prepared for a specific group within the company, provides more information about this campaign and how it might play out in the coming months.

According to this “Employee Conversation” guideline, Amazon anticipates initial employee resistance to its new return-to-work policy. It also shows how the company intends to communicate the abrupt change.

“It is important to note that we do not necessarily expect the employee to make a decision in the initial conversation with you,” according to the document.

Amazon’s spokesperson, Brad Glasser, told Insider that there is “more energy, collaboration, and connections happening since we’ve been working together at least three days per week.”

“We’ll continue to look for the best ways to bring more teams together in the same locations, and we’ll communicate directly with employees as we make decisions that affect them,” he said.

Here are some of the guidelines’ key points:

  • Those deemed to have voluntarily resigned will get no severance.
  • Employees who get approval to stay in their current location will still have to come into an office 3 times a week. That could apply even if the rest of the employee’s team is in other cities.
  • Amazon managers should have “empathy and positive intent” when having these difficult conversations with their staff.

The new hub policy’s goal is to encourage more in-person work. After Amazon implemented a three-day-a-week office attendance policy in February, many employees questioned its effectiveness, citing the fact that many of their team members still worked in other locations. It was especially perplexing for those hired as virtual assistants or who relocated to remote locations during the pandemic. Amazon stated last year that it had no intention of forcing employees back to the office and that it would continue “experimenting, learning, and adjusting for a while.”

Three options

Those who do not want to live near the hubs have three options, according to internal guidelines. These apply to employees based in the United States, and those working outside the country must follow local rules and timelines, according to the company.

First, they must obtain a special “co-location exception” from a director and an HR partner. Those who have been approved must still come into the office three times per week, regardless of where the rest of the team is.

Second, they can find a new team that meets their requirements within 60 days. Employees with good standing may be given up to six months to find a new team.

The last option is to leave the company without pay.”This will be considered voluntary resignation,” according to the document. “If they are not interested in relocating, the alternative is for them to leave the company.”

Special exceptions

According to the manager’s guideline, Amazon will grant a “Remote Work Exception” on a case-by-case basis that does not require an employee to come into the office at least three times per week.

It also has a “Field by Design” role for jobs that require at least three weekly visits to customer locations or other Amazon buildings.

Jobs that can be done remotely, such as customer service or ad sales, can be designated as “Remote by Design,” and employees will spend less time in the office.

All three titles require approval from Amazon’s S-team, a group of slightly more than two dozen top executives. Amazon employs approximately 300,000 corporate employees.

‘Be prepared’

Perhaps anticipating strong employee opposition, the guidelines provide Amazon managers with several talking points and best-practice examples to follow.

Managers should “lead with empathy and positive intent” throughout the employee conversation, according to the document. They should also “be prepared” to explain the team’s strategy and share alternative options with the employee if they are “not aligned with the approved locations.”

Managers should also “practice what you want to say ahead of time” and “be direct and clear, while also being empathetic and compassionate.”

Managers must notify HR and legal teams if an employee threatens legal action.

“Remember, the employee may be surprised by the proposed location, so it is normal to have to repeat information,” advises the document.

Q&A templates

The guidelines include 15 possible Q&A templates.

One of the concerns is how to respond when an employee repeatedly asks why they need to relocate. “We are working to bring our teams together in the office and feel that this is the best location to support your ongoing growth and development, as well as the ability to deliver for our customers,” the suggested response says. These decisions are not made lightly, and we are fully aware of the implications for those who will need to relocate.”

It also instructs managers to keep individual employee situations private. If an employee inquires as to why another employee has a remote work exemption, managers must respond that “personal circumstances are confidential.”

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