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Downtown Seattle Sees Surge in Activity Since Pandemic, Fueled by Amazon’s Office Mandate

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Downtown Seattle Sees Surge in Activity Since Pandemic, Fueled by Amazon’s Office Mandate

Foot traffic in downtown Seattle and the vicinity of Amazon’s headquarters reached a new high in May, marking significant progress since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.

Amazon’s back-to-office mandate, which took effect on May 1, likely played a role in boosting foot traffic in downtown Seattle. Compared to the previous month, foot traffic increased by 9.5% in May and showed an impressive 38.7% surge compared to the same period last year. The data, provided by the Downtown Seattle Association and analyzed by, specifically tracks worker foot traffic from Tuesday to Thursday.

The spike in activity last month was particularly notable in the Denny Triangle neighborhood, where Amazon’s headquarters is situated. Foot traffic in May rose by 27% compared to the previous month and nearly doubled from the same time last year.

Despite these positive developments, Seattle still lags behind other major cities in terms of downtown recovery, with worker foot traffic only reaching approximately half of pre-pandemic levels.

However, the increasing numbers observed last month provide encouraging signs for city leaders who are striving to revitalize downtown activity by encouraging workers to return to the office, especially as reports indicate a slowdown in the return-to-office trend.

Amazon’s office mandate is also impacting car traffic in and out of Seattle, as previously reported.

This upswing in activity brings good news to local businesses such as restaurants, bars, doggy daycares, and other small establishments located around Amazon’s headquarters.

Nonetheless, not everyone is pleased with the new policy that requires corporate employees to be in the office at least three days a week. Amazon Remote Advocacy, a group advocating for remote work, participated in a walkout last week at the Seattle headquarters. Organizers of the walkout expressed their dissatisfaction with the top-down, one-size-fits-all nature of Amazon’s return-to-office mandate, stating on their website that it undermines the inclusive and diverse future they envision.

Earlier, thousands of corporate and tech employees had joined an internal Slack channel to protest against Amazon’s return-to-office policy.

Despite internal pressure, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy remained steadfast in the face of criticism, emphasizing the value of in-person collaboration and serendipitous interactions.

This walkout is part of a broader power struggle between employees and major tech companies that have been bringing workers back to the office, sometimes against their wishes, after collectively eliminating tens of thousands of jobs.

Amazon’s decision to implement the return-to-office policy came after previously stating in October 2021 that such decisions would be left to individual team leaders. However, the company altered its course and announced the return-to-office plans in February of this year.

In response to the walkout, Amazon stood by its policy and expressed satisfaction with the first month of having more employees back in the office. According to Amazon spokesperson Brad Glasser, the company has received positive feedback from employees and neighboring businesses regarding the increased energy, collaboration, and connections fostered by the return to the office. Glasser acknowledged that it will take time for employees to readjust to spending more time in the office and assured that various teams within the company are working diligently to facilitate a smooth transition.

With over 65,000 corporate and tech employees in the Seattle area, Amazon boasts a workforce of 350,000 corporate and tech employees worldwide. Other tech employers in downtown Seattle, including Redfin, are also implementing their own back-to-office mandates.

A recent survey conducted by the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce revealed that a hybrid work model is the most popular option among downtown Seattle employers, with most companies having employees in the office for three or more days per week.

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