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Starbucks says it's time for employees to return to the office

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Starbucks is pivoting away from pandemic work practices that sent most of its office workers home. Now, the company says it's time for employees to get back to their desks.

According to a letter from Howard Schultz posted on the coffee giant's website:

"The pandemic was a full-out attack on the ideas that make Starbucks, Starbucks. It disrupted human connection. It made the world harder for so many. And it threatened our ability to be a safe haven and a Third Place .... Partners, it’s time for us to come back to the office—to do this Mission-critical work face-to-face, and in person. It’s time we rebuild and revive the energy of the SSC and our regional offices as thriving, active hubs."

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Specifically, Starbucks' new policy states that, starting Jan. 30, office workers will be required to come into its Seattle headquarters a minimum of three days a week. Two of those days must be on Tuesday and Wednesday. It notes that this policy is for employees "within commuting distance."

Schultz argues that employees are needed back at the office because Starbucks values human connection. He says wants to rebuild such connections at the headquarters that were lost amid pandemic measures.

He says it's because he wants to be "fair," noting that employees were previously required to be in the office one day a week, but many haven't followed that guidance. The company has been monitoring which badges have been accessing the HQ, Schultz says.

After the Covid-19 pandemic first struck in 2020, Starbucks said it was taking a year to rethink its in-office policies. At the time, talk among company leaders, and other business leaders in Seattle, was about "hoteling" work spaces. That means workers would not have assigned desks, and would instead work in communal spaces. If they required a desk, they would reserve the space ahead of time.

Two years later, it is unclear if that is the still the vibe around Starbuck's HQ. What is clear is that Schultz wants employees back in the office by the end of January.

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