Message to Starbucks support partners: Returning to each other and to the office
Since I returned last April, I’ve had conversations with many of you about our principles and aspirations for our company.
Three ideas—in some form or another—come up again and again to describe Starbucks:
Connection through coffee
Nurturing belonging, joy, love
Starbucks can be a feeling, a safe haven, a true Third Place
These are powerful descriptions of why we work here. For Starbucks to be linked to any of them as an idea, as a place of work or as a community of partners is an awesome responsibility.
And all of us, no matter what your role is in the company, are stewards of these ideas.
IN SERVICE OF ONE ANOTHER AS GREEN APRON PARTNERS
I want to share a change in our policy about hybrid work consistent with our past, but boldly about our future. Before I do, let me share context.
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.
At the SSC and across our regional offices, we had the privilege and the ability to pivot to virtual work. Most of us stopped coming into the office—at first, because of safety, and to protect ourselves and our loved ones. As days stretched into weeks, many of us claimed new freedoms, pioneered new ways of working, achieved new productivity.
But many partners didn’t have that privilege. They had to keep coming into their workplace—our stores, our plants, our distribution centers—day after day. They faced the hardship. They faced the challenges in their communities—deeply, passionately and often with great heroics.
Today, when we talk with our store partners, we hear how much they need us. As the nation comes out of the pandemic, they want to thrive, not just survive. We need to support them better. We need to simplify their jobs. We need to dive even deeper into each store and every store to support partners the way they need us to, now.
I believe they are asking support partners to be better integrated, showing up as one team, working to be not just a little better but profoundly better. They are asking us to do the transformative work that I believe can only be done effectively when we are physically together—the kind of thinking, daring collaboration, courageous conversations that cannot be done on Teams calls, or in just pre-scheduled meetings, or just as transactions.
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.
THE POLICY SHIFT
Effective Jan. 30, all SSC partners within commuting distance are expected to work in the SSC a minimum of three days per week. To rebuild our connection to each other and synchronize teams and efforts, two of your days will be Tuesday and Wednesday—and the third day will be aligned on in partnership with your leader and team. The other two days of the week are work from anywhere—home, office, a Starbucks store, or beyond. We will still honor our partners that work fully digitally and will continue to hire fully digital roles as appropriate, with a commitment to foster inclusivity across all our teams.
This policy applies to partners within commuting distance of the SSC. It is a shift designed to preserve the flexibility and productivity that you’ve built through your work-at-home rituals while, at the same time, bringing us together in a synchronized way for the in-person work that’s vital for our future success.
This policy also applies to region-based support partners within commuting distance of a regional office with a slight nuance. Effective January 30, the expectation is to be in the regional office a minimum of three days per week with one of those days being a common day identified by local leadership, when all partners are in the office together. The remaining days of the week are up to you - home, store, office or beyond - building on the rituals, balance, and productivity you’ve created in your work from home routines.
I want to be clear that this policy is not intended to take our retail leaders (DM+ and others whose day-to-day work is done primarily in stores or "in-market") away from stores. In fact, there should be little to no change for those partners.
Let me be frank and honest about why we are making this shift now.
First, is our culture. We are a company rooted in human connection. We must have authentic and deep human connection everywhere we work—in stores, the SSC, roasting plants, coffee farms—everywhere. 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. Failing to do so as we emerge from the pandemic puts us at a great loss, depriving us of vital relationships and the impromptu connections and idea generation that comes from convening in person. In a real sense, the more we lose human connection with each other and within our stores and the vital relationships that define who we are, we put our brand into peril.
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. Our culture depends on rituals—from coffee tastings to storytelling to seeing how our design experiences look end-to-end by putting the work up on a wall, and on and on. We will revive and reinvent these rituals to build our culture. And we will use in-person time to spend on our Reinvention efforts, forging the deeper hard choices, trade-offs, and integration, so we succeed.
Second, is fairness. I applaud the hard work from all of us. But it’s time to right something that has been inherently not fair. Partners in our offices have had the privilege of not coming into the workplace and when we embarked on hybrid work last year, each of us made a promise to each other to be in the office between one to two days a week. From our badging data, it’s clear that a good number of SSC partners are not meeting their minimum promise of one day a week. This is why I am also announcing that this policy—three days in the SSC and regional offices—is a requirement, and we expect every partner to respect it like we do every other workplace policy. It’s that critical to our business success.
Additionally, our Modern Workplace team has spent the past two years tirelessly redesigning a workplace of the future with countless amenities to support an inspiring and uplifting environment. We are providing those resources in support of enabling your very best contributions. And we acknowledge that we have some work still to do as we reimagine the future of the workplace, given the policy shift we are announcing today. Know that we are committed to adjusting quickly and will need to give the team some time to refine the vision.
Third, we must correct the unintended consequences that have emerged from conducting so much of our work virtually. Many of you have shared in our partner surveys and co-creation sessions that we are losing the art of collaboration, doing so much of our work in silos prevents actual prioritization, and we are having a hard time operationalizing decisions quickly and thoughtfully. What’s more, we’re losing a connection to a shared mission, something bigger. Being together will give us a chance to work on all these things.
Our call to action is to build the SSC and regional offices into vibrant hubs of great people doing great work, in person with each other. All of us will be facing in the same one direction in service of our stores, so that we fulfill our much larger Mission. You can expect that, especially on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at the SSC, we’ll be engaging in the in-person rituals, imaginative conversations about our future, the restoration of our Mission and values and the real work of our Reinvention. And be assured, Laxman, the leaders of the company and I will be working with you in powerful ways as you come back.
MOVING FORWARD AS ONE
As with all big shifts, having open dialogue and providing space to work together to live up to a new policy is a long-standing tradition at Starbucks.
Shortly, all support partners will receive an invitation to join your leader for a team town hall to discuss this decision and invent ways to bring it to life. We welcome your input as we build towards the future.
I’ve also asked Sara Kelly and the executive team to share their plans for making our time together in this new form of hybrid work a superior use of all our time, talent and hopes for this company. You will hear more from them shortly.