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01/12/2023

Starbucks tells corporate employees to return to the office

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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Starbucks’ corporate employees will be required to work in the office at least three days a week. (Photo via Shutterstock)

Starbucks Corp. wants its corporate workers to start coming back to the office.

The coffee giant’s employees within commuting distance of its Seattle headquarters will be required to return to the office a minimum of three days a week, with two of the days being Tuesday and Wednesday and a third as decided by their teams. Employees can work from anywhere — including at home, the office or beyond — the other two days of the week. (About 3,750 employees are based at the headquarters.)

Starbucks employees in regional offices who are within commuting distance will also be required to work at their respective office at least three days a week, with one day being a common day (identified by local leadership) when all workers will be in the office. The remaining days in the office will be up to the individual employees.  

The new office policy, which starts on Jan. 30, was detailed in a memo to employees by Howard Schultz, who is serving as interim CEO until Laxman Narasimhan takes the reins on April 1.

“Partners, it’s time for us to come back to the office—to do this mission-critical work face-to-face, and in person,” Schultz wrote. “It’s time we rebuild and revive the energy of the SSC and our regional offices as thriving, active hubs.”

While corporate workers were able to pivot to working virtually at the onset of the pandemic in 2020, many Starbucks employees didn’t have that “privilege,” Schultz noted.

“They had to keep coming into their workplace—our stores, our plants, our distribution centers—day after day,” he said. “They faced the hardship. They faced the challenges in their communities—deeply, passionately and often with great heroics.”

Schultz cited company culture in the workplace return policy.  He said a lack of human connection has put the Starbucks brand “into peril,

We are a company rooted in human connection,” he wrote. “While we have built transactive connection and on-screen skills through COVID, we have lost a true human connection at the SSC. We need to rebuild that. I think many of us crave a bigger meaning to our work, and the camaraderie and joy from doing our best work together. We will spend time this quarter reclaiming that and strengthening our relationships.”

Schultz also cited fairness, noting that Starbucks’ badging data showed a “good number” of employees were not meeting the company’s September request to work in the office one or days a week.   

In its updated return-to-office policy, Starbucks joins Disney, whose CEO Bob Iger this week told employees that they must return to the office four days a week starting March 1. In September, Apple required its employees to return to the office  three days a week.

To read Schultz's full memo to employees, click here.