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Amazon.com Inc. wants corporate employees to return to the office at least three days a week by this fall, taking a slightly more relaxed stance from its previous position of a return to an “office-centric culture."

Amazon said it expects office workers in the U.S., U.K. and several other countries to resume working mostly on site the week of Sept. 7, according to an email sent to employees Thursday. Workers can seek exemptions to the rules, which have to be approved. Corporate employees would also have the option of working up to four weeks a year fully remote from a domestic location.

“Like all companies and organizations around the world, we’re managing every stage of this pandemic for the first time, learning and evolving as we go," according to the email. “We’ve been thinking about how to balance our desire to provide flexibility to work from home with our belief that we invent best for customers when we are together in the office."

The Seattle-based e-commerce giant follows other tech peers in setting a flexible, hybrid model to appease employees who have become accustomed to working from home while also fostering the collaboration and creativity that comes from bringing staff together. Earlier this week, International Business Machines Corp. also told U.S. employees that company offices would be reopened beginning Sept. 7, and Facebook Inc. encouraged workers to return “at least half the time" when its U.S. offices fully reopen in October. Apple Inc. said employees should begin returning to offices in early September for at least three days a week.

Amazon’s new position, reported earlier in The Seattle Times, may slow the revival of Seattle’s downtown, which has been struggling to rebound from the pandemic while white-collar workers stay away. Amazon is the largest office tenant in the city, with a campus that sprawls through multiple neighborhoods.

As businesses shifted to remote work during the pandemic, foot traffic downtown dropped dramatically. More than 160 street-level businesses downtown shuttered permanently last year, according to a tally from the Downtown Seattle Association.

Even as Amazon has signaled that it no longer plans to expand in Seattle, opting to grow in the nearby suburb of Bellevue, Washington, and elsewhere in the U.S., real estate investors have been banking on the company to help fuel a revival in the city.

Silverstein Properties Inc., best known for its office towers at lower Manhattan’s World Trade Center site, bought a development site last year that’s near Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle. Earlier this year, KKR & Co. bought a redeveloped former department store downtown that’s leased by the tech giant.


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