“Stop treating us like school kids who need to be told when to be where and what homework to do.”
“We have a long relationship with Apple,” began an ominous statement issued last week by Apple Together, an Apple-employee advocacy group.
The treatise, addressed “Dear Executive Team” and titled “Thoughts on Office-bound Work”, was sent to Apple Inc.’s upper corporate echelons in response to a new policy requiring a return to in-person work.
In August, Apple announced a firm September 5 deadline for a return to at least three days of in-office work per week for most employees.
“I’m writing to you today with two updates, one about changes we’re making to our hybrid pilot, the other about its timing,” wrote CEO Tim Cook to Apple employees on August 15, 2022. “
“When we announced the pilot a year ago, we said it would be a learning experience for us all,” Cook began. “And we committed ourselves to adapting along the way to create a flexible environment that enables our teams to thrive. Based on the feedback and insights we’ve received from you and your managers, we are making the following adjustment: Teams participating in the pilot will come to the office three days each week with Tuesday and Thursday as set days across the company, but now the third day you come in will be decided by your teams.”
“Each team will work through the decision about which day is right for them, and you’ll hear from your leaders soon,” Cook promised. “As before, many employees will have the option of working remotely two days a week. Depending on your role, you will also have the option to work remotely for up to four weeks a year.”
Mr. Cook also went into detail about the company’s Covid19 safety protocols and Apple’s intention to, “continue to navigate the pandemic together as the situation evolves.”
“We are monitoring the data closely and you will continue to receive updates on health and safety protocols for your location as necessary from our COVID-19 Response Team,” Cook said.
CEO Tim Cook has tried before to reinstitute a return to more regular, pre -Covid19 office hours.
In March 2022, Apple rolled out its hybrid telework model after delaying a previously announced office reopening “indefinitely” in December.
“In the United States, beginning on April 11, we’ll begin the phased approach to the hybrid pilot, with teams returning to the office initially one day a week, and then, beginning in the third week, two days a week,” Tim Cook announced on March 4. “This transitional period will now be extended from four to six weeks.”
“We will then begin the hybrid pilot in full on May 23, with people coming to the office three days a week — on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday — and working flexibly on Wednesday and Friday if you wish,” Cook told employees.
This latest attempt to turn back the clock to 2019, in spite of recently relaxed Covid19 guidelines, has received, if anything more pushback than CEO Tim Cook experienced in March.
“There’s no going back for office workers,” wrote Emily Peck succinctly for Axios on August 23, 2022.
Some Apple employees certainly agree.
“We grew up with Apple, we told our friends and families about Apple, we dreamt of one day joining Apple,” Apple Together said in their “Thoughts on Office-bound Work” statement. “Then, one day, we did. Apple grew through us. Like you, many of us were there through Apple’s near-death experience. We are still here, now that Apple is the most valuable company in the world.”
“Today, with your leadership and our ideas we still serve all of our customers and still try to surprise and delight people with our products,” Apple Together wrote. “But our vision of the future of work is growing further and further apart from that of the executive team.”
The Apple Executive Team’s vision of a return to collaboration in-office is, according to Apple Together, “driven by fear”.
“Fear of the future of work, fear of worker autonomy, fear of losing control,” the statement read. “Let us explain.”
“We definitely see the benefits of in-person collaboration; the kind of creative process that high bandwidth communication of being in the same room, not limited by technology, enables,” Apple together pointed out. “But for many of us, this is not something we need every week, often not even every month, definitely not every day. The Hybrid Working Pilot is one of the most inefficient ways to enable everyone to be in one room, should the need arise every now and then.”
“What is also required for creativity and excellent work for many of us is time for deep thought,” the statement explained. “But being in an office often does not enable this, especially not many of our newer offices, with their open floor plans, which make it hard to concentrate on anything for an extended amount of time.”
“We are asking to decide for ourselves, together with our teams and direct manager, what kind of arrangement works best for each one of us, be that in an office, work from home, or a hybrid approach,” Apple employees wrote. “Stop treating us like school kids who need to be told when to be where and what homework to do.”
“We can’t believe we need to spell this out, but commuting to the office, without an actual need to be there, is a huge waste of time as well as both mental and physical resources,” Apple Together complained.
“Apple will likely always find people willing to work here, but our current policies requiring everyone to relocate to the office their team happens to be based in, and being in the office at least 3 fixed days of the week, will change the makeup of our workforce,” the statement continued. “It will make Apple younger, whiter, more male-dominated, more neuro-normative, more able-bodied, in short, it will lead to privileges deciding who can work for Apple, not who’d be the best fit.”
“Besides the fact that serendipity is a weak argument for office-bound work, in-person collaboration can be achieved in much better ways, the current policy being very inflexible, wasting a lot of time, and having a negative impact on diversity, there is an even more important reason for us to oppose the Hybrid Working Pilot and the general push to return to office-bound work: It’s bad for Apple, both the employees and our products, and ultimately our customers,” Apple Together concluded.
CEO Tim Cook and plenty of other industry captains don’t seem to agree, however, and an epic battle of wills between corporate decision-makers and office workers may have only just begun.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)