Apple employees have officially started returning to personal after working remotely since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Apple’s decision to return to personal, albeit on a very limited basis at the moment, has not been without criticism, but the company has pushed on with its plans.
Apple is starting to require personal work
After several starts and stops due to increases in COVID-19 cases, Apple officially set its April 11 date for return to personal last month. From today, the company’s employees are now required to work personally at least one day a week. Starting three weeks from today, May 2, employees must work from the office two days a week.
Thereafter, from May 23, employees must be in the office three days a week. This is the start of Apple’s so-called “hybrid” work plan. Apple has not revealed how long it will have this hybrid work plan in place, but Tim Cook has described it as a “pilot”. This implies that it may change someday and the company may eventually require employees to return to full time in person.
As we have said before, but even though Apple’s corporate policy now requires personal work starting on April 11, many departments of Apple have been back in the office for more than a year. This specifically includes groups such as hardware engineering and other similar teams.
Amid setbacks from employees, Apple has noticed that it is flexible in its policies … to some degree. In his latest note, announcing on April 11 the date of return to personal work, Tim Cook acknowledged that this could be a “disturbing change” for some employees. This is why the company is gradually implementing the “hybrid” approach, and this is also the reason why individual teams can adapt their policies as they see fit.
An in-depth report from Bloomberg explained last week that many employees are frustrated by this change, especially as Apple advertises that their products make telecommuting easy … and yet it will not allow full-time telecommuting for its own employees.
One week before its tribute to telework, Apple Inc. its own employees a timeline after which they should return to their offices. For some, including the 7,500 of Apple’s 165,000 employees who belong to a Slack room dedicated to advocating teleworking, it was bruises. “They trust us, don’t they?” wrote one. Others called the ad “distasteful” and “insulting”. The underlying message: Apple knows that the company’s employees – by using their products as tools – can work from home. So why can its own staff not?
A similar report from Assets also described employees’ frustration with Apple’s mandatory personal work schedule:
“I do not give a single fk about ever coming back to work here,” wrote a self-proclaimed Apple employee on a bulletin board called Blind. When April 11 comes around and puts this new rule into effect, they added, they will quit their jobs.
One worker responded to messages about quitting with a laughing emoji and said, “I want to do the same.” Another employee volunteered, “Damn hell YEAH my man, let’s do this! F – k RTO.”
One of the employees said they would send their resignation as soon as they got home. They mentioned the transit as part of their reason for leaving: “I already know I will not be able to cope with the commute and sit for 8 hours.”
Apple is one of the few Silicon Valley companies that requires personal work. Twitter allows its employees to work permanently from home, just as most Facebook employees can. Google requires some teams to return to personal work starting as early as this month, but many employees are able to work permanently from home.
Apple’s insistence on returning to personality can affect its retention. The company has been handing out two rounds of rare bonuses to some of its top employees over the past many months. These bonuses come in the form of limited share units, which are earned over several years.
This earning plan gives employees an extra incentive to stay with Apple instead of leaving for a competitor. Apple has reportedly faced some staff retention issues, particularly with regard to Meta. Whether these bonuses are enough to offset frustration with personal work, however, remains to be seen.
One last important piece of context is that another wave of COVID-19 is thought to be underway in the United States. This variant, invented BA.2, is a subvariant of the highly contagious Omicron variant. Although the extent of this wave remains unclear, many Apple employees have expressed concern about returning to work amid the uncertainty caused by this new variant.
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