Amazon is closing some laid-off employees from its offices and their company-issued laptops on Wednesday, about a week after the company began notifying employees that their positions were being cut.
Amazon told laid-off employees of the division working on the Alexa virtual assistant to pick up their belongings, pack company-issued laptops and prototypes, and download Amazon’s email and messaging service on their personal devices by 5 p.m. Wednesday hours, according to an email viewed by The Seattle Times.
Amazon began notifying employees last Tuesday that they had lost their jobs, the first round in a series of layoffs that Amazon expects to last into 2023 and affect about 10,000 jobs. That number is variable as team leaders continue to make decisions, CEO Andy Jassy told employees last week.
It’s still not clear how Amazon’s job cuts will affect its Puget Sound headquarters, but the losses are part of a wave of layoffs sweeping the tech industry and the state. Washington’s information sector cut 5,900 jobs in October, according to a report by the Employment Security Department. With the latest layoff announcements, it will lose up to 18,000 engineering or technology-related jobs in just two months.
Amazon is cutting across several divisions, including appliances, books, human resources, and retail. The group of devices includes Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, Halo health device and Astro home robot, as well as Kindle, smart home products and the Echo speaker. Stores comprises the bulk of Amazon’s consumer business, including online and brick-and-mortar stores, the marketplace for third-party sellers, and Prime.
Dismissed employees can still use personal devices to access corporate email, Amazon’s communication platform Chime and the AtoZ app, which provides information about compensation, benefits and internal job opportunities. That’s important for laid-off employees, as Amazon has given them 60 days to search for new positions within the company. Dismissed employees lose access to Slack, an instant messaging system.
“As you know, over the coming months we are focused on supporting you in your efforts to find your next role, both internally at Amazon and externally,” the email reads. “Since you are not expected to work during this time, we will be making some changes to your business access.”
Responding to questions about the exclusion announcement, Amazon said Monday it is working to support those affected and help them find new roles, including by ensuring they have access to resources relevant to internal job searches. The timeline for access changes varies, Amazon said.
The company confirmed the layoffs on Wednesday, a day after it began budget cuts. Jassy told employees on Thursday that the cuts will continue into 2023, forcing some Amazon employees to wait until next year to hear if their jobs are safe.
“Our annual planning process continues into the new year, which means there will be more job cuts as leaders continue to make adjustments,” Jassy wrote in a note to employees.
That news left employees struggling to understand what the coming months might look like, from whether they could close on a new home to worrying about finding another job before their Amazon-sponsored work visa expires.
“How can we expect to be ‘Earth’s greatest employer’ when literally everyone in the company is trying to figure out if they’re going to keep their jobs?” asked an employee in an internal Slack channel, #layoff-discussion, viewed by The Seattle Times.
Some employees received a quick response when a 15-minute meeting with their manager and a human resources representative appeared in their calendar last Tuesday. Those employees were told they had 60 days to find a new job, either inside or outside of Amazon, according to interviews with former employees.
But in November, Amazon froze hiring for business roles “for the next few months.”
An employee who was recently fired from Amazon’s appliance organization and asked to remain anonymous as she searched for a new role said the various internal positions she applied for led to a dead end.
Some managers turned down her request for an informational interview because her skills did not match the position being offered. Most said there were simply too many applicants to schedule time for them all, or cited the hiring freeze as a reason to say no.
Losing access to resources like Slack and a company laptop feels like “salt in the wound,” said the employee, because it adds another layer of complexity to the job search.
That employee, who is 39 and from Federal Way, said her team had an on-site meeting in August where managers first mentioned that the group had become a “little bloated” and that Amazon was looking for ways to “cut the fat cut off”. .” But leadership went to great lengths to assure employees that they were doing their best to avoid layoffs.
Now she says it’s not clear how Amazon decided who to cut and who to keep. She and her colleagues are “hungry for answers,” she said.
“We’re talking about being a data-driven company and it’s like, ‘Give us the breakdown so we can see what competition we’re up against. [for new roles] and give us a reason,” she said.
“I have to wonder, why me?” she continued. “Everyone says it’s not my performance, but I want someone who actually had to make that decision to answer for it.”
Amazon has maintained it will help laid-off workers find new jobs. Describing the steps employees should take before losing access to corporate devices and buildings, the company wrote to employees: “Our focus is on helping these steps be as seamless as possible so you can focus on your search for a track.”
Nearly a week after Amazon began scheduling meetings to discuss layoffs, some employees say it’s still unclear what their severance pay will look like. Employees of the human resources department have been offered a voluntary buy-out.
Amazon has declined to share how the job cuts will affect Puget Sound’s workforce, which includes about 75,000 people spread across offices in Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond, fulfillment centers in Kent, Sumner, Dupont and an air hub in SeaTac.
The company has not yet submitted information to Washington’s Employment Security Department, which records job losses in the state.
If the layoffs affect 10,000 employees, Amazon would lay off about 3% of its own employees and less than 1% of its global workforce of more than 1.5 million, which consists primarily of hourly workers.