Foot traffic in downtown Seattle and around Amazon’s headquarters hit record highs in May, as measured since March 2020 when the pandemic began.
Amazon’s back-to-office mandate that kicked in May 1 likely helped boost downtown Seattle foot traffic, which was up 9.5% from the prior month and 38.7% from a year ago. The data, provided by the Downtown Seattle Association and calculated by Placer.ai, counts worker foot traffic from Tuesday to Thursday.
The spike last month was more pronounced in the Denny Triangle neighborhood, where Amazon’s headquarters is located. Foot traffic was up 27% month-over-month in May, and nearly doubled from a year ago.
Seattle still lags behind other U.S. cities in regard to its downtown recovery, and worker foot traffic is only about half of pre-pandemic levels.
But the increasing numbers last month are a promising sign for city leaders trying to get workers back to the office to spur downtown activity, especially as reports emerge of a stalling return-to-office trend.
Amazon’s mandate is also impacting car traffic in and out of Seattle, as we reported last month.
The increased activity is good news for the restaurants, bars, doggy daycares, and other small businesses around Amazon’s headquarters.
But not everyone is happy about the new policy, which requires corporate employees back to the office at least three days per week.
A group called Amazon Remote Advocacy was part of a walkout last week at the Seattle headquarters.
“Amazon’s top-down, one-size-fits-all RTO mandate undermines the diverse, accessible future that we want to be a part of,” walkout organizers said on their website.
Thousands of corporate and tech employees previously joined an internal Slack channel to protest Amazon’s return to office policy.
Amazon CEO Andy Jassy resisted internal pressure from employees to reconsider the policy, citing the benefits of in-person collaboration and serendipitous interactions.
The walkout comes amid a broader power struggle between workers and major tech companies that have been bringing employees back to the office, in some cases against their wishes, after collectively cutting tens of thousands of jobs.
The move to implement the policy came after Amazon previously said in October 2021 that it was leaving back-to-office decisions up to individual team leaders. Amazon altered course when it announced the return-to-office plans in February of this year.
Amazon stood by its policy in advance of the walkout last week.
“We’re always listening and will continue to do so, but we’re happy with how the first month of having more people back in the office has been,” Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser said in a statement last week, citing positive feedback from employees and nearby businesses about the “energy, collaboration, and connections.”
He added: “We understand that it’s going to take time to adjust back to being in the office more and there are a lot of teams at the company working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible for employees.”
Amazon has more than 65,000 corporate and tech employees in the Seattle area, part of a workforce of 350,000 corporate and tech employees worldwide.
Other tech employers in downtown Seattle including Redfin are rolling out their own back-to-office mandates.
A recent survey by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce found that a hybrid work model is the most popular option among employers in downtown Seattle, and most companies are seeing employees in the office three or more days per week.
Source: Geek Wire
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