As far as its customers are concerned, Apple is one of the great remote-operating companies. It has mastered virtual events, which are quicker and faster than the old tedious Thanksgiving festivities, and its online launch briefings offer more flexibility and less travel for journalists than private meetings. The company can provide technical support through phone, online chat or mail-in repair and run a user-friendly web store. It will be easier for the whole family of Apple products to buy and operate without having to set foot in the Apple Store.
So why doesn’t Apple extend the same flexibility to its own employees? Over the past few years, the company has shown that it can operate effectively at a distance, so why ask employees to come to the office?
Apple employees have been expressing dissatisfaction with being pushed into office for almost as long as the company has been pressuring them. Last summer, Tim Cook announced that employees would be required to work three days a week in person – and Specific Day Three: Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for all-in-the-fall, and they responded with an open letter demanding more flexibility and better communication.
“Apple’s policy of remote / location-flexible work and communication in and around it has already forced some of our colleagues to resign,” the letter warned. “Apart from the flexibility that comes with inclusion, many of us feel we have to choose between our family integration, our well-being, and our ability to do our best or be a part of Apple.”
Those plans were delayed, but the general direction of travel was not: according to Ars Technica, the three-day policy is now expected to take effect on May 23, and workers’ concerns are stronger than ever. It was May 6th Report Apple’s director of machine learning, who has left the company, cited a “return to work” policy, arguing that “more flexibility would be the best policy for my team.” And another open letter claims that Apple’s hybrid work policy “does not recognize flexible work and is driven only by fear.” Fear of the future of work, fear of workers’ autonomy, fear of losing control. “
It’s hard to retain talent at best, even when you’re Apple; And this is not the best of times. Ignoring persistent employee complaints for this long period of time is a sure way to push away some of your best employees.
Why is Apple’s management so obsessed with the practice of working personally? This can be a question of confidence: Can we trust you to do the right thing when a supervisor is not keeping an eye on your shoulders? Can we believe you wouldn’t take a prototype home and then leak it on social media? But let’s go beyond that in a charitable way and focus on “disinterest.” Roughly speaking, the idea that people from different walks of life would bump into each other in the canteen, chat, and discover something like an iPod.
As the recent open letter suggests, this is a romantic and old-fashioned way of looking at work with little relevance to a large modern workplace like Apple Park. “It doesn’t take luck to cross the communication silos and make the cross-functional connections that are essential to Apple’s work, it takes deliberate,” the letter explains. If you ask them to do so and create a slack channel for that purpose, members of different departments will discuss their projects with each other. This is definitely a better bet than expecting them to use the same lift, and above all it can happen from a distance.
I will admit that a virtual meeting is still not one in person. There are some social cues that you do not receive in text or even video chat, and some people – including myself – feel more comfortable talking to someone in the same room and willing to contribute. But its importance is diminishing as employees become more accustomed to virtual chat. As technology continues to evolve, it is becoming increasingly difficult to impose company-wide mandatory office attendance three days a week.
Requirements have forced hundreds of businesses to learn how to operate remotely, and none of them are better equipped than Apple to make the system work. From the MacBook Pro to the iPad Pro, AirPods and Studio displays, Apple has the perfect range of hardware to suit the needs of its employees, depending on the portability and power they need; In fact its own marketing positions as the ideal tool for remote work. It has its own messaging and video chat app and everyone has internal security and software skills to work together. If Apple could put me and six other journalists in a video chat with a product demo team, ask us to remotely sign the NDA and send a review sample a day later, it would be able to conduct a few internal meetings.
Apple may think it’s special for a culture that thrives on smooth, private discussions, but as the company’s own staff noted, this wasn’t true before the epidemic, and certainly not in the future. In fact, Apple is almost exclusively for its talented and committed workforce and technology resources for them to work effectively from anywhere. But if they don’t listen to their complaints, that cadre will take his talent elsewhere.