The pitfalls Amazon will need to avoid with multiple headquarters

Amazon announced today that it will be building a second headquarters in North America, conveniently deemed Amazon HQ2, which could add up to 50,000 “high-paying” positions. But there’s a chance that this may pose certain challenges.

With all the structural changes that are bound to come the company’s way, it’s worth looking into the issues it could potentially run into by having more than one headquarters.

What is Amazon HQ2 is all about

Amazon reportedly expects to spend more than $5 billion on construction and running its second headquarters — which is “expected to create tens of thousands of additional jobs and tens of billions of dollars in additional investment in the surrounding community.”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO, commented in a statement: “We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters… Amazon HQ2 will bring billions of dollars in up-front and ongoing investments, and tens of thousands of high-paying jobs. We’re excited to find a second home.”

But Amazon isn’t going it alone when it comes to deciding on a location — instead, it’s calling on interested people who “represent a city or regional economic development organization in North America” to get in touch with them and respond to a Request for Proposal” or RFP.

So what will it take for the corporate giant to break ground for this project in your city?

“We are looking for a location with strong local and regional talent—particularly in software development and related fields—as well as a stable and business-friendly environment to continue hiring and innovating on behalf of our customer,” the company noted, and detailed the exact criteria further in a press release.

Amazon’s current headquarters in Seattle is reportedly made up of 33 buildings, a workforce of more than 40,000, and 8.1 million square feet.

Here are some challenges Amazon might face in having multiple headquarters.

Two headquarters, two frames of mind — and too little time

Amazon’s press release indicated that while HQ2 will add new employees and leaders, current top executives will have the option to have their employees in either of the headquarters — or even both of them.

But having teams spread across headquarters in different locations could make it challenging to rally the team and have them operate as a unit.

An Inc. article on having various business locations speaks to “lack of team cohesiveness,” where having workers who haven’t met can create an “‘us-versus-them’ mentality.” It also mentions “out-of-site-out-of-mind syndrome,” where managers who are juggling a lot at a main location aren’t able to devote time to workers at other ones.

There’s a chance that both of these factors could be difficult for managers and employees to work through.

What if there’s a huge drive to relocate to HQ2?

Amazon employees will reportedly have a say in where they work — the release notes further that HQ1 employees can either stay at that location, “or they could have an opportunity to move if they would prefer to be located in HQ2.”

So executives may not be the only ones saying they want all or some of their teams in the new building. Giving employees the option to speak up as well gives them a chance to be heard, but also runs the risk of having a flood of parties interested in hopping to HQ2.

Employees will still need to be able to communicate effectively

An article from NewGround on “split-operations,” defined as “the practice of dividing an organization’s headquarters across multiple buildings in the same city” (which often happens there’s no remaining space for growth), shed light on the nature of this process, what to think about before starting it, and how to aid the process.

Although Amazon doesn’t seem to be limited to Seattle for its second headquarters, the third tip provided seems to apply, since employees will still need to be able to work well together — no matter where they are located.

“Open up the lines of communication between offices using technology. Blogs, intranets, and online collaboration tools can help employees connect through the virtual channels,” it says.

Whichever city wins Amazon HQ2’s heart, it is bound to witness how the company operates and changes.