Apple has asked its employees to spend more time in the office as pandemic-related restrictions continue to ease, but it has again faced organized resistance and an internal petition calling for more time to work from home, according to a report Financial Times.
A week ago, Apple again announced a deadline if its corporate employees have to return to the office at least three days a week. This time it is September 5. Starting today, the company will require its employees to work on-site on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as one additional workday to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
It wasn’t Apple’s first time made such a statement— though a previous attempt called for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays instead of offering one flexible day depending on the team — but company management has repeatedly had to delay that shift in light of new developments in the pandemic since the three-day plan was first announced in June 2021
Currently, many Apple employees go to the office two days a week instead of three.
The new mandate comes as CDC and other organizations have recently scaled back COVID-19 safety recommendations for behaviors such as sheltering in place after possible exposure to the virus, wearing a mask, or social distancing. Cases of the virus in most metropolitan areas where Apple has large offices are relatively low, though not always lower, than they were before the initial outbreak of the omicron variant earlier this year.
But some of the company’s employees have formed an internal advocacy group called “Apple Together” to push back against further plans to return to work. An internal petition circulated by a petition group on Sunday and seen by the Financial Times claims that Apple employees are “happier and more productive” working from home and that “a single mandate from senior management” ignores “good reasons” why many employees should to be able to continue working from home more than three days a week or on days they consider most suitable.
However, instead of calling for a blanket policy on working from home, the employee group advocates a system where individual employees could talk to their line managers to decide expectations on a case-by-case basis, without “high-level approvals” or “complicated procedures.” which makes things more restrictive.
The petition has not yet been officially sent to Apple’s top management, as it is still collecting signatures from employees.
Coping with waves of change in technology
While Apple has not been as aggressive in bringing employees back to offices as some traditional non-tech corporations in more conservative parts of the United States, Apple has pushed for a return to normalcy more vigorously than many of its American tech peers. .
For example, Ars was told that Microsoft is allowing exactly what Apple employees are asking for, in that individual team leaders can set their own policies instead of top-down, company-wide policies. Some corporate jobs at Microsoft require pre-pandemic levels of on-site work, others allow for full remote work, and still others provide some sort of hybrid balance between the two extremes.
Microsoft’s one-size-fits-all approach is more or less typical of major US tech companies at the moment, but some others, such as Twitter, have taken an even more liberal approach and introduced permanent remote work and location-independent options from the top for most employees.
But Apple CEO Tim Cook said casual meetings and discussions in the workplace are vital to Apple’s culture and are part of its secret sauce for success. This philosophy was at the heart of Steve Jobs and Jony Ive’s plans for the circular Apple Park headquarters in Cupertino, California, which opened in April 2017.
Countering this, Apple employees have previously argued that with teams split between multiple offices in Northern California, as well as other locations such as San Diego; Austin, Texas; and Culver City (a municipality in metro Los Angeles), such casual work is no longer possible.
Apple opened some of these additional offices to make it easier to poach talent from competitors at businesses Apple plans to expand without requiring new hires to move to the Bay Area. For example, Office in San Diego in part because it improves the company’s prospects for attracting talent from rival Qualcomm.
But Apple management’s resistance to a more flexible remote work policy could run counter to the company’s goals of attracting and retaining talent in competitive fields. Until now, the director of machine learning is Jan Goodfellow left Apple for Alphabet subsidiary DeepMind and cited the remote work policy as the reason for his departure.