Amazon is encouraging customer service employees at some U.S. call centers to work from home, signaling the company’s preference for remote work in certain roles that would help save money on real estate, according to people familiar with the matter.
The shift is part of a plan to close multiple call centers around the country, including one that opened in 2005 in Kennewick, Washington, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak about the plans.
An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment about planned closures, but confirmed the shift to remote work.
“We’re offering additional members of our customer service team the increased flexibility that comes with working virtually,” Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser said in an email. “We’re working with employees to make sure their transition is seamless while continuing to prioritize best-in-class support for customers.”
The pandemic forced companies to embrace remote work for customer service roles and many employees are resisting efforts to return to offices. Before the pandemic, as many as 90% of some 3 million U.S. customer service representatives commuted to call centers. Post-pandemic, about half of them are expected to work from home and half commute to offices, according to Jeff Christofis, who oversees staffing giant Kelly Services’ contact center unit.
Offering remote work will help Amazon recruit employees in an industry with high turnover. In addition to providing workers flexibility, Amazon won’t be locked into specific cities from which to fill positions. It can also save on real estate if it shifts enough staffers to work-from-home and closes existing facilities.
Amazon started letting customer service representatives work from home before the pandemic. Its cloud computing division sells Amazon Connect software that helps companies create remote customer service networks. Amazon has call centers around the U.S., including in Kennewick and Phoenix, that each employ hundreds of workers. Still, call center employees make up a small fraction of the company’s more than 1.5 million workers.