Recently, a group of employees at Apple wrote a letter to CEO Tim Cook in response to a company policy change that would require them to return to the office for three days per week starting in early September.
In the letter, the employees voiced some concerns over the decision and said they would prefer a flexible approach where those who want to work completely remote are able to do so. Here’s an excerpt from their letter and a list of their specific requests:
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.
Whether Apple goes along with the requests or not remains to be seen, but the letter itself demonstrates the appeal of flexible working arrangements. With so many companies sending employees home last year as the pandemic intensified, the workforce has gotten accustomed to the idea of working from home — and many seem to like it, as my colleague Chris Pardo noted in a recent post. Chris also recently wrote about how a majority of companies plan to allow their employees to work remotely at least part of the time going forward.
Of course, figuring out the exact balance of in-person versus remote work is the million-dollar question. While some companies seem poised to allow full-time remote work, many are instead exploring hybrid approaches that blend in-person and remote. Apple’s three-days-per-week plan would fall under the hybrid umbrella. It’s more flexible than the company was pre-pandemic, when they generally discouraged remote work entirely, but it’s also less flexible than some other large tech companies.
What works for one organization might not fit your corporate culture and employee needs, and it’s up to HR and talent teams to figure out the best fit. Mobility teams should also stay on their toes and remain flexible as these decisions play out. This is uncharted territory for everyone, so there may be some bumps along the way.
The move comes just two days after Tim Cook sent out a note to Apple employees saying they would need return to the office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays starting in the fall. Most employees can work remotely twice a week. They can also be remote for up to two weeks a year, pending manager approval. It’s an easing of restrictions compared to Apple’s previous company culture, which famously discouraged employees from working from home prior to the pandemic. Yet it’s still more conservative compared to other tech giants. Both Twitter and Facebook have told employees they can work from home forever, even after the pandemic ends. For some Apple workers, the current policy doesn’t go far enough, and shows a clear divide between how Apple executives and employees view remote work.