The Seattle Times reports that while there was some resistance to Amazon's decision to require its employees to return to the office at least three days a week, at the very least the decision has had a positive impact on downtown Seattle.
Columnist Jon Talton writes:
"Deciding to examine Amazon’s return to its South Lake Union and Denny Triangle offices myself, I found a scene outside reminiscent of Seattle around 2016.
"Employees were catching up with people they hadn’t seen since the pandemic emptied offices. Plenty were wearing jackets and jeans and carrying backpacks, but suits and dresses were also there. Long lines of cars went into all the parking garages, and shuttle buses came, too.
"At least 300 people were having lunch from the restaurants there Tuesday. It was pleasant outside, the perfect environment for 'creative friction,' a term that describes the sharing of ideas and spontaneous innovation that can’t be found with remote work. Employees and dogs enjoyed the festive parks. A nearby nail salon was booked solid. Outdoor areas offered comfortable and colorful furniture and a playground/art installation Los Trompos (merry go rounds)."
Talton goes on:
"The first week of the Amazon return, downtown hit a daily average of 77,000 worker visits — the highest daily average seen since the start of the pandemic … The largest employer bringing workers back to the heart of the city should send a clear message to other employers (private and public) that it’s time to return. After all, Amazon is a company constantly analyzing data for every move it makes, and it has determined that being in-person for at least three days per week is a sound strategy.
"This can and should build momentum — and that momentum will help small businesses, restaurants, arts and culture. It’s about getting people back downtown and doing what we can to ensure a clean, safe, interesting and welcoming environment once they’re here. Mayor Bruce Harrell clearly gets this, as does City Attorney Ann Davison."
- KC's View:
The future of office work - at least in major cities - probably has changed forever, with some level of remote work becoming acceptable. Enlightened employers will, I think, understand that effectiveness and productivity may be heightened by a more flexible culture.
But that said, there's no question in my mind that these cities' long-term health depends on workers returning to some degree. Cities are the lifeblood of innovation in this country, and the nation is better when its cities thrive.
A side note - CNBC reports that Amazon employees are beginning the process of moving into the first phase of the company's HQ2 campus in Arlington, Virginia, described as a uniquely sustainable environment:
"Amazon’s HQ2, formally called Metropolitan Park, has many features that contribute toward the company’s goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions across all operations by 2040.
"The buildings will run with no operational carbon emissions and will be powered by 100% renewable energy from a nearby solar farm … The 2.1 million square feet of space includes some of the newest clean energy technology and sustainability features. An enormous meeting room has a mass timber ceiling made from 70-foot laminated planks of sustainable material. The floor is made of concrete from Carbon Cure, a clean cement company funded by Amazon’s Climate Pledge Fund.
"There are 3,000 tinted glass windows for cooling, and red/green lights by the side of the windows that tell workers when is a good time to open those windows. The building is also using special cooling technology that helps save about 7 and a half million gallons of water per year. That’s more water than is needed to fill the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool.
"The heating and cooling systems operate based on need, meaning the ventilation and temperatures will change depending on occupancy. There are also advanced energy metering systems in the building to help evaluate future improvements as the building is occupied and teams use the space."
CNBC writes that "as for the second phase of HQ2 offices that was recently delayed, Hurst wouldn’t give a time frame but said Amazon is in the pre-construction phase and still committed to it."