Apple employees ask for more flexible remote work options

Posted:
in General Discussion edited June 4
Responding to Apple CEO Tim Cook's request to return to office work in September, employees at the company have countered with a proposal for more flexible work from home options.




The Friday letter, addressed to Cook and Apple leadership, was penned by about 80 people and appeared in an internal Slack channel for "remote work advocates" that counts roughly 2,800 members, according to The Verge.

While the workers represented are grateful for Apple's consideration of a hybrid approach to office work in a near post-COVID-19 era, they said the proposed solution does not sufficiently address their needs.

On Wednesday, Cook sent an email to employees asking for their cooperation in returning to office work for at least three days a week starting in September. With a few exceptions, staff can remote in twice a week and elect to work from home for up to two weeks a year, pending approval from management.

For Apple, which places an emphasis on in-person attendance, the hybrid schedule represents a departure from long-held work policies. Still, employees who have worked remotely for over a year feel as though their concerns and wishes are not being taken into consideration.

"That Apple's remote/location-flexible work policy, and the communication around it, have already forced some of our colleagues to quit. Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple," the letter reads.

There also appears to be a perceived rift between workers and the upper echelons of Apple leadership. The authors address this disconnect and suggest remote work can yield the same benefits as in-person meetings.

"Over the last year we often felt not just unheard, but at times actively ignored. Messages like, we know many of you are eager to reconnect in person with your colleagues back in the office,' with no messaging acknowledging that there are directly contradictory feelings amongst us feels dismissive and invalidating. Not only do many of us already feel well-connected with our colleagues worldwide, but better-connected now than ever. We've come to look forward to working as we are now, without the daily need to return to the office. It feels like there is a disconnect between how the executive team thinks about remote / location-flexible work and the lived experiences of many of Apple's employees," the employees say.

The letter agrees that collaboration drives success, but notes physical co-location is less of a contributing factor because the company is already distributed with offices around the world.

"[O]rgs are rarely co-located within walking distance, let alone in the same building, meaning our best collaboration has always required remote communication with teams in other offices and across timezones, since long before the pandemic," the letter reads.

Apple employees say remote work brings five key benefits: diversity and inclusion in retention and hiring; tearing down previously existing communication barriers; better work life balance; better integration of existing remote / location-flexible workers; and reduced spread of pathogens.

"For many of us at Apple, we have succeeded not despite working from home, but in large part because of being able to work outside the office."

To that end, the staffers are asking leadership for the following:
  • We are formally requesting that Apple considers remote and location-flexible work decisions to be as autonomous for a team to decide as are hiring decisions.
  • We are formally requesting a company-wide recurring short survey with a clearly structured and transparent communication / feedback process at the company-wide level, organization-wide level, and team-wide level, covering topics listed below.
  • We are formally requesting a question about employee churn due to remote work be added to exit interviews.
  • We are formally requesting a transparent, clear plan of action to accommodate disabilities via onsite, offsite, remote, hybrid, or otherwise location-flexible work.
  • We are formally requesting insight into the environmental impact of returning to onsite in-person work, and how permanent remote-and-location-flexibility could offset that impact.
The letter can be read below in its entirety.

Dear Tim and Executive Leadership,

Thank you for your thoughtful considerations on a hybrid approach to returning to office work, and for sharing it with all of us early this week. We appreciate your efforts in navigating what has been undeniably an incredibly difficult time for everyone around the world, and doing so for over one hundred thousand people. We are certain you have more plans than were shared on Wednesday, but are following Apple's time-honored tradition of only announcing things when they are ready. However, we feel like the current policy is not sufficient in addressing many of our needs, so we want to take some time to explain ourselves.

This past year has been an unprecedented challenge for our company; we had to learn how to deliver the same quality of products and services that Apple is known for, all while working almost completely remotely. We did so, achieving another record-setting year. We found a way for everyone to support each other and succeed in a completely new way of working together -- from locations we were able to choose at our own discretion (often at home).

However, we would like to take the opportunity to communicate a growing concern among our colleagues. That Apple's remote/location-flexible work policy, and the communication around it, have already forced some of our colleagues to quit. Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple. This is a decision none of us take lightly, and a decision many would prefer not to have to make. These concerns are largely what prompted us to advocate for changes to these policies, and data collected will reflect those concerns.

Over the last year we often felt not just unheard, but at times actively ignored. Messages like, we know many of you are eager to reconnect in person with your colleagues back in the office,' with no messaging acknowledging that there are directly contradictory feelings amongst us feels dismissive and invalidating. Not only do many of us already feel well-connected with our colleagues worldwide, but better-connected now than ever. We've come to look forward to working as we are now, without the daily need to return to the office. It feels like there is a disconnect between how the executive team thinks about remote / location-flexible work and the lived experiences of many of Apple's employees.

For many of us at Apple, we have succeeded not despite working from home, but in large part because of being able to work outside the office. The last year has felt like we have truly been able to do the best work of our lives for the first time, unconstrained by the challenges that daily commutes to offices and in-person co-located offices themselves inevitably impose; all while still being able to take better care of ourselves and the people around us.

Looking around the corner, we believe the future of work will be significantly more location and timezone flexible. In fact, we are already a distributed company with offices all over the world and across many different timezones. Apple's organizational hierarchy lends itself towards offices that often follow the same structure, wherein people in the same organization are more likely to be co-located in an office. At the same time, we strongly encourage cross-functional, cross-organization collaboration, and our organization's many horizontal teams reflect this. Such collaboration is widely celebrated across our organization, and arguably leads us to our best results -- it's one of the things that makes Apple, Apple. However, orgs are rarely co-located within walking distance, let alone in the same building, meaning our best collaboration has always required remote communication with teams in other offices and across timezones, since long before the pandemic. We encourage distributed work from our business partners, and we've been a remote-communication necessary company for some time, a vision of the future that Steve Jobs himself predicated in an interview from 1990. This may explain how mandatory out-of-office work enabled tearing down cross-functional communication barriers to deliver even better results.

Almost all of us have worked fully remote for over a year now, though the experience arguably would have been better less one pandemic. We have developed two major versions of all our operating systems, organized two full WWDCs, introduced numerous new products, transitioned to our own chipsets, and supported our customers with the same level of care as before. We have already piloted location-flexible work the last 15 months under much more extreme conditions and we were very successful in doing so, finding the following benefits of remote and location-flexible work for a large number of our colleagues:

  • Diversity and Inclusion in Retention and Hiring
  • Tearing Down Previously Existing Communication Barriers
  • Better Work Life Balance
  • Better Integration of Existing Remote / Location-Flexible Workers
  • Reduced Spread of Pathogens

We ask for your support in enabling those who want to work remotely / in location-flexible ways to continue to do so, letting everyone figure out which work setup works best for them, their team, and their role -- be it in one of our offices, from home, or a hybrid solution. We are living proof that there is no one-size-fits-all policy for people. For Inclusion and Diversity to work, we have to recognize how different we all are, and with those differences, come different needs and different ways to thrive. We feel that Apple has both the responsibility to recognize these differences, as well as the capability to fully embrace them. Officially enabling individual management chains and individual teams to make decisions that work best for their teams roles, individuals, and needs -- and having that be the official stated policy rather than the rare individual exceptions -- would alleviate the concerns and reservations many of us currently have.

We understand that inertia is real and that change is difficult to achieve. The pandemic forcing us to work from home has given us a unique opportunity. Most of the change has already happened, remote/location-flexible work is currently the "new normal," we just need to make sure we make the best of it now. We believe that Apple has the ability to be a leader in this realm, not by declaring everyone just work from home for forever,' as some other companies have done, but by declaring an official broad paradigm policy, that allows individual leaders to make decisions that will enable their teams to do the best work of their lives. We strongly believe this is the ideal moment to "burn the boats" -- to boldly declare yes this can be done, and done successfully, because there is no other choice for the future.'

We have gathered some of our requests and action items to help continue the conversation and make sure everyone is heard.

  • We are formally requesting that Apple considers remote and location-flexible work decisions to be as autonomous for a team to decide as are hiring decisions.
  • We are formally requesting a company-wide recurring short survey with a clearly structured and transparent communication / feedback process at the company-wide level, organization-wide level, and team-wide level, covering topics listed below.
  • We are formally requesting a question about employee churn due to remote work be added to exit interviews.
  • We are formally requesting a transparent, clear plan of action to accommodate disabilities via onsite, offsite, remote, hybrid, or otherwise location-flexible work.
  • We are formally requesting insight into the environmental impact of returning to onsite in-person work, and how permanent remote-and-location-flexibility could offset that impact.

We have great respect for Apple and its leadership; we strongly believe in the Innovation and Thinking Differently (from "the way things have always been done" and "industry standards") that are part of Apple's DNA. We all wish to continue to "bleed six colors" at Apple itself and not elsewhere. At Apple, our most important resource, our soul, is our people, and we believe that ensuring we are all heard, represented, and validated is how we continue to defend and protect that precious sentiment.

This is not a petition, though it may resemble one. This is a plea: let's work together to truly welcome everyone forward.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 57
    I returned to the office full time only a week ago and see both sides.  At the end of the day Apple is signing their checks.  They didn’t build a multi-billion dollar campus that promotes in person collaboration only to permanently shift  to remote work.  The hybrid approach is more than I got and seems like a fair middle ground.  At the end of the day it is a free country and those who want to continue working from home have the ability to take their talents elsewhere (considering it myself).
    edited June 5 JWSCd_2ravnorodomstompyJFC_PAmacxpress
  • Reply 2 of 57
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 903member
    Comical.  And a poorly written diatribe to boot.
    stompyentropyslkruppasdasd
  • Reply 3 of 57
    swineoneswineone Posts: 46member
    It's high time the leadership tells people to get with the program and do the work they get paid to do, rather than revolting against a new hire, demanding Apple take a position in middle eastern wars, and now complaining they have to return to work.
    d_2ravnorodomentropysLeftyLisalkrupp
  • Reply 4 of 57
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 5,604member
    Employees seem to think they're the ones in a position to demand.
    DBSync
  • Reply 5 of 57
    dee_deedee_dee Posts: 53member
    sflocal said:
    Employees seem to think they're the ones in a position to demand.
    Well they are, and I new something like this would happen and called it in the previous article.  I’m pretty surprised the pushback came so soon.  

    95% of the companies I interviewed with over the past 3 months ALL offered 100% remote. Apple is going to have a hard time competing with that.  I’m sure they will counter with the same bullshit line “innovation requires working together in person” and other “intangible” benefits, but the horses have already left the barn. 
    edited June 5 firelockelijahgStrangeDaysasdasdgatorguybyronlhammeroftruthmuthuk_vanalingamchemengin1
  • Reply 6 of 57
    cpsrocpsro Posts: 2,823member
    In what world is it “arguable” that the past year would’ve been better without the pandemic?
    MacPro
  • Reply 7 of 57
    iadlibiadlib Posts: 58member
    I can’t wait to see how this pans out. There’s such a huge disconnect between upper management and their rank and file employees at Apple. 
    elijahglkrupphammeroftruthmuthuk_vanalingamchemengin1
  • Reply 8 of 57
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 6,755member
    dee_dee said:
    sflocal said:
    Employees seem to think they're the ones in a position to demand.
    Well they are, and I new something like this would happen and called it in the previous article.  I’m pretty surprised the pushback came so soon.  

    95% of the companies I interviewed with over the past 3 months ALL offered 100% remote. Apple is going to have a hard time competing with that.  I’m sure they will counter with the same bullshit line “innovation requires working together in person” and other “intangible” benefits, but the horses have already left the barn. 
    Wells it’s quite possible that Apple falls into the 5% where complete home-working wouldn’t work so well. 

    A friend of mine works for a company which is 100% remote for the past year or so. . They don’t make any tangible products: just design and software. 

    They got to release day last month - and discovered no one had written the installer.  I can’t see why stuff like customer support can’t be home-based, though there’s still no real substitue for just leaning back and asking Mike if he’s ever come across the problem before. 

    And this is an awful lot of online noise for eighty people out of a hundred thousand+ employees. 

    Apple is essentially a design house with a services arm. What works for some companies won’t work for all. 


    d_2ravnorodomdewmestompyJWSCDBSyncbyronlmuthuk_vanalingam
  • Reply 9 of 57
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,169member
    Well, I’d start recruiting a new breed of campus staff that gets paid significantly more than those at home and phase out those that are not happy coming to work. Remember Apple has what 147,000 employees worldwide, so this group represents less than 2% of them. 

    I’m sure many of these people were already headed out the door anyway when the pandemic hit. There are also those who are working on outside projects while getting paid by Apple, during company time. Something they couldn’t pull off as easily at the office. 
    JFC_PADBSync
  • Reply 10 of 57
    genovellegenovelle Posts: 1,169member
    dee_dee said:
    sflocal said:
    Employees seem to think they're the ones in a position to demand.
    Well they are, and I new something like this would happen and called it in the previous article.  I’m pretty surprised the pushback came so soon.  

    95% of the companies I interviewed with over the past 3 months ALL offered 100% remote. Apple is going to have a hard time competing with that.  I’m sure they will counter with the same bullshit line “innovation requires working together in person” and other “intangible” benefits, but the horses have already left the barn. 
    Are these companies competing with multi-trillion dollar companies that have a need for high levels of security? We have seen just looking in from the outside that remote works has slowed their progress and increased mistakes at Apple. I believe having a significant number of 100% remote workers long term puts security at risk because too many assets would need to be exposed. 

    There are a lot of talented people across the country who would love to work in that giant spaceship. Maybe it’s time to start cleaning house and let the unhappy souls find joy somewhere else and let someone else enjoy what Apple has to offer. 
    d_2montrosemacsDBSyncbyronl
  • Reply 11 of 57
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,472moderator
    swineone said:
    It's high time the leadership tells people to get with the program and do the work they get paid to do, rather than revolting against a new hire, demanding Apple take a position in middle eastern wars, and now complaining they have to return to work.
    I have a feeling it's the same types of employees involved in all of them. These types tend to be opportunistic and weaponize core values against other people. They always use the same kind of statements:

    "we often felt not just unheard, but at times actively ignored"
    "feels dismissive and invalidating"
    "lived experiences"
    "Diversity and Inclusion"
    "We are living proof"
    "environmental impact of returning to onsite in-person work"
    "We all wish to continue to "bleed six colors""
    "ensuring we are all heard, represented, and validated"

    When people request that others validate their lived experiences, that means they want to go unchallenged regardless of whatever statements they come up with.

    One of these people is the following Apple engineer who makes $180k/year and was one of the people who spoke out against the hiring of the ad guy (over 2000 other employees signed a petition to Eddy Cue on that issue):

    https://twitter.com/cherthedev?lang=en

    There's a mention of remote work here:

    https://twitter.com/cherthedev/status/1400249791049785345

    "Remote work with geo pay that doesn't account for cost of living discrepancies to market value is racist"
    One of the responses was: "[remote work] also shields BIAPOC from (micro) racist coworkers/environments."

    The promotion of remote working is a really positive thing that has come out of the pandemic but the reality is there are a lot of opportunists in the world whose jobs are not always easy to check up on. There was a story recently of someone who skipped work as a hospital fire-safety employee for 15 years:

    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/23/world/europe/italy-hospital-worker-15-years.html

    When thousands of employees are being paid as much as $180k per year, it's understandable the company would want some assurance they aren't just spending the whole day in the bath. With software development, they can check remote logins and source code changes so it's one of the easiest jobs to allow to work remotely but you can see what would happen. As soon as they offer preferential treatment to certain job roles, they'll bring up things like how one particular job role disproportionately hires certain gender/race etc and it becomes a civil rights issue.

    Employment will be much better worldwide by accommodating remote work and companies won't have a lot of options because people will quit for companies that embrace it but these activist (whiny) employees are such a cancer on the workplace and the world in general. On the outside they give the impression they are being a positive force in the world but they are really just selfish, loud and want their own forms of hate for other people validated.

    To use the phrase "We all wish to continue to "bleed six colors" at Apple itself and not elsewhere" is insulting, what kind of way is that to talk, trying to use Apple's values against them if they don't get their own way. Whoever wrote that needs to be canned, that's not just someone who is representing workers, that shows a really deceitful personality that has no place at a progressive company like Apple.
    MacProsdw2001ravnorodomsagan_studentGRKosturstompychadbagJWSCentropysJFC_PA
  • Reply 12 of 57
    ... would the requested environmental impact study be interesting and worthwhile, and potentially quantifiably speak to a core (social capitalism) value promoted by a company with so many seeming challenges in that area, including the 'right to repair' as widely published ...
    edited June 5
  • Reply 13 of 57
    They didn’t build a multi-billion dollar campus that promotes in person collaboration only to permanently shift  to remote work.
    That will be one of the questions facing management at big tech companies going forward: are these buildings creating a better work environment or are they more about creating an architectural icon that is associated with the company. It's like the multi-billion dollar football stadiums being built in the NFL. If you take away the fancy roofing structures and external veneers, they're just a standard field + stands + shopping mall concourse. 
    edited June 5 StrangeDayshammeroftruth
  • Reply 14 of 57
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,605member
    I get it that some people are sick of the commute and juggling issues with kids, pets, and personal appointments. Personally I prefer the physical separation between work and home. Working from home means I’m always at work mentally and physically, but that’s just the way my brain functions. Everyone’s experiences are different and as someone who spent several years in the Navy, where you are “at work” 24x7x365 unless granted “liberty” for a few hours at a time when in-port and 30 days off per year, and by the way, you cannot quit, I definitely have a different set of experiences and expectations of what constitutes personal hardship that was/is taken on by-choice. 

    That said, I’m open to employees expressing their personal concerns to upper management because we really want these organizations to function well and be highly productive. But at the same time, a job is a job and unless you are the boss, you always have to answer to someone else, especially when they are providing you with significant compensation, both in raw salary but also a comfortable work environment with all of the tools and access to training and experiences that enrich you personally and professionally. 

    I suppose that if you’ve never experienced the alternatives, like being in the military or other jobs that take you away from normal society, or doing a job you despise because you need the money, then your points of contention with a company like Apple may seem to be a burden. I guess. To me it sounds like they’re complaining about a glass that’s 90% full. I guess I’m now officially a dinosaur from another era and I just don’t get it anymore.
    MacProravnorodomsagan_studentGRKosturstompychadbagentropysmontrosemacsDBSyncbyronl
  • Reply 15 of 57
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,307member
    dewme said:
    I get it that some people are sick of the commute and juggling issues with kids, pets, and personal appointments. Personally I prefer the physical separation between work and home. Working from home means I’m always at work mentally and physically, but that’s just the way my brain functions. Everyone’s experiences are different and as someone who spent several years in the Navy, where you are “at work” 24x7x365 unless granted “liberty” for a few hours at a time when in-port and 30 days off per year, and by the way, you cannot quit, I definitely have a different set of experiences and expectations of what constitutes personal hardship that was/is taken on by-choice. 

    That said, I’m open to employees expressing their personal concerns to upper management because we really want these organizations to function well and be highly productive. But at the same time, a job is a job and unless you are the boss, you always have to answer to someone else, especially when they are providing you with significant compensation, both in raw salary but also a comfortable work environment with all of the tools and access to training and experiences that enrich you personally and professionally. 

    I suppose that if you’ve never experienced the alternatives, like being in the military or other jobs that take you away from normal society, or doing a job you despise because you need the money, then your points of contention with a company like Apple may seem to be a burden. I guess. To me it sounds like they’re complaining about a glass that’s 90% full. I guess I’m now officially a dinosaur from another era and I just don’t get it anymore.
    No sir, you are not a dinosaur.  You nailed it. Tim should invite you to talk to this (probably small) group of malcontents.

    Then, Tim should thank them for their service, and start interviewing replacements. There are some people that no matter what you offer will always ask for more.
    edited June 5 sdw2001GRKosturstompychadbagJFC_PADBSync
  • Reply 16 of 57
    Marvin said: When thousands of employees are being paid as much as $180k per year, it's understandable the company would want some assurance they aren't just spending the whole day in the bath.
    A lot of rank and file workers in the U.S. wonder the same thing about high level execs prior to the pandemic. The vast majority of the time they're unseen and you have no idea if the occasional communication that goes out to the staff with their names on it was even written by them. Some of the execs may be hard working, some may not. It's not really any different. 
    ravnorodomfirelockelijahgStrangeDayshammeroftruth
  • Reply 17 of 57
    swineoneswineone Posts: 46member
    Marvin said: When thousands of employees are being paid as much as $180k per year, it's understandable the company would want some assurance they aren't just spending the whole day in the bath.
    A lot of rank and file workers in the U.S. wonder the same thing about high level execs prior to the pandemic. The vast majority of the time they're unseen and you have no idea if the occasional communication that goes out to the staff with their names on it was even written by them. Some of the execs may be hard working, some may not. It's not really any different. 
    "A lot of rank file or workers" (or is it you?) really have no idea what the life of a CEO is like.

    As much as these people would like to believe a CEO gets unfairly compensated, it's quite clear that Tim Cook is ultimately responsible for the $90 billion in sales last quarter while making a measly $14 million. Proportionately speaking he's probably the least well-compensated employee of the entire company (with respect to the value each employee creates for the company). And Tim doesn't merely answer to a half-competent middle manager with a non-technical background who is easily gamed. Tim answer to the SHAREHOLDERS, and he has to answer over things he has little control of (such as semiconductor shortages). At this level, you have to have answers or a good strategy even with regards to these things you don't control. And you're a lunatic if you think that doesn't mean living and breathing the job 24x7x365.

    But really, if these "rank and file workers" think they can do better than Tim while making say 5% of what he makes, why don't they make the case to the shareholders that they should be hired for the job, to see if the shareholders agree. I'm sure they wouldn't pass up the opportunity to save almost $14 million/year.
    ravnorodomGRKosturthtchadbagJWSCJFC_PADBSync
  • Reply 18 of 57
    crowleycrowley Posts: 7,809member
    sflocal said:
    Employees seem to think they're the ones in a position to demand.
    A company isn’t a whole lot without its employees.

    Seems unlikely that every employee at Apple would benefit from the exact same working practice. A bit of flexibility works wonders and managerial discretion goes a long way in making employees feel heard and appreciated.  A top level decision about how many days a large group of diverse people should spend in the office seems very antiquated in the modern digital corporate world. 
    Happy_Noodle_BoyelijahgStrangeDayshammeroftruthmuthuk_vanalingamchemengin1
  • Reply 19 of 57
    swineone said: "A lot of rank file or workers" (or is it you?) really have no idea what the life of a CEO is like.
    I was responding to a comment about the company needing to know whether or not an $180,000 a year software engineer was "spending the whole day in the bath". Unless you think it's logical to believe that $180,000 software engineers are inclined to be in the bath all the time rather than working when they're at home, I'm not sure what your point is. My point is that it's just as likely a high level exec could spend all day in the bath as the software engineer. Same difference. 
    edited June 5 elijahgStrangeDays
  • Reply 20 of 57
    swineoneswineone Posts: 46member
    swineone said: "A lot of rank file or workers" (or is it you?) really have no idea what the life of a CEO is like.
    I was responding to a comment about the company needing to know whether or not an $180,000 a year software engineer was "spending the whole day in the bath". Unless you think it's logical to believe that $180,000 software engineers are inclined to be in the bath all the time rather than working when they're at home, I'm not sure what your point is. My point is that it's just as likely a high level exec could spend all day in the bath as the software engineer. Same difference. 
    A CEO of a large company that spends all day in the bath wouldn’t last the first week, hell, perhaps not even the first day. Plus he wouldn’t ever get employed again in any high level position.
    edited June 5 ravnorodomGRKosturJWSC
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