Apple employees criticize work-from-home policy in open letter

They decried the hypocrisy of marketing its products as great for remote work.

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Steve Dent
May 3, 2022 8:30 AM
An Apple logo is pictured in an Apple store in Paris, France September 17, 2021. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes
Gonzalo Fuentes / reuters

A group of Apple employees have written an open letter to the company's executive team complaining about its new policy that only allows for two days of working from home, iMore has reported. They said that Apple's reasons for implementing the policy don't stand up, and that the policy is wasteful, inflexible and will lead to a "younger, whiter, more male-dominated, more neuro-normative, more able-bodied" workforce. 

"You have characterized the decision for the Hybrid Working Pilot as being about combining the "need to commune in-person" and the value of flexible work," the letter states. "But in reality, it does not recognize flexible work and is only driven by fear. Fear of the future of work, fear of worker autonomy, fear of losing control."

We tell all of our customers how great our products are for remote work, yet, we ourselves, cannot use them to work remotely? How can we expect our customers to take that seriously? How can we understand what problems of remote work need solving in our products if we don't live it?

In March, Apple announced that corporate employees would be return to the office, and need to be there two days a week at minimum by May 2nd. Starting May 23rd, it'll shift to a hybrid model with mandatory office days on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. CEO Tim Cook called in-person collaboration benefits "irreplaceable" and in an email, the executive team talked about the importance of "the serendipity that comes from bumping into colleagues" during in-person work. 

However, the letter counters those arguments saying that in-person collaboration is not even needed monthly in some cases. It also disputed the "serendipity" statement, saying that Apple's siloed office structure makes it difficult to bump into colleagues, adding that remote tools like Slack are better for collaboration. Furthermore, Apple's open-plan offices limit the concentration "required for creativity and... deep thought," they said. 

It noted that a daily commute "is a huge waste of time as well as both mental and physical resources." At the same time, it said that the policy favors people who can afford to live near the office and don't have to perform care-work. "In short, it will lead to privileges deciding who can work for Apple, not who’d be the best fit."

Perhaps the most compelling argument was that Apple was being hypocritical in the way it markets its own products. "We tell all of our customers how great our products are for remote work, yet, we ourselves, cannot use them to work remotely?" the letter states. "How can we expect our customers to take that seriously? How can we understand what problems of remote work need solving in our products if we don't live it?"

The letter is another sign of growing employee discontent at Apple, which often presents itself as progressive and inclusive in its ads. Employees recently started organizing a push for "real change" at the company, citing "a pattern of isolation, degradation and gaslighting," and even created an #AppleToo movement. The company is also facing a probe by the US National Labor Relations Board, which is looking into complaints over hostile working conditions.  

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