Prolonged work-from-home policies have stripped downtown business sectors of foot traffic since early 2020. In Seattle, local retail businesses and restaurants were eagerly awaiting the return of office workers, but Microsoft and Amazon have both delayed returns to the offices for their thousands of workers and left the service sector starved of business.


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Microsoft Announces Indefinite Delay

The software company had said that it would start bringing workers back to its offices on Oct. 4, but an early September 2021 announcement canceled that timeline. Uncertainty about the pandemic prompted the company that employs about 58,000 workers in the area of Seattle and its suburbs to delay a return to office. At this point, the company has not provided a specific date for the return of office workers.

Redmond Transit Center. Credit: Sam.Meyer.Marton

From the main Microsoft office campus in Redmond to Downtown Seattle, businesses that have relied on traffic from office workers coming and going once again find themselves at a loss. Their hopes for a resurgence of business with the original Oct. 4 return date have evaporated. A restaurant manager in Redmond said she had four lunch reservations canceled right after the delay was announced.

Amazon Pushes Office Return Out To January

The Microsoft announcement came on the heels of a similar office workforce delay from Amazon in August 2021. Amazon, which operates offices in Seattle and Bellevue, had originally planned a Sept. 7 return to office, but leaders decided that the unpredictability around the coronavirus delta variant would interfere with a smooth return to office life.

36th Street Fremont, Seattle, Washington. Credit: Joe Mabel

This decision applies to about 60,000 Amazon workers. Their absence from daily life on city streets has already been keenly felt by local businesses that have anxiously awaited the return of their customer base. They are now anticipating reduced revenue and less need for workers in the coming months.

Has the new normal of people working from home reduced foot traffic at your business?

ABOUT Microsoft

Microsoft enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

ABOUT Amazon

Teams around the world invent on behalf of Amazon customers every day to meet their desire for lower prices, better selection, and convenient services. One way we guarantee a wide selection of products is through the 1.7 million small and medium businesses around the world selling on and offering more options for customers.

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