Apple employees launch petition to protest return-to-office plans

Employee advocacy group Apple Together says more flexibility is needed.

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A group of Apple employees is pushing back against a looming deadline demanding they return to working in the office. The Financial Times has seen a petition, circulated by employee group Apple Together, requesting more flexibility around remote work. It’s in response to an edict that demanded workers return to working in the company’s Santa Clara Valley offices for at least three days a week starting September 5th, 2022.

It’s the latest in a series of attempts by Apple to return to the status quo ante after COVID-19 forced it to adopt home working. Tim Cook has always emphasized the important nature of in-person collaboration as fundamental to Apple’s business and success. Apple Together, however, says that the company’s culture of secrecy makes chance moments of inspiration impossible, and that workers are happier and more productive with a more flexible arrangement.

The announcement of a new working model has already seen a tweak after pushback — the original plan was to enforce office working on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. Now, the order is for Tuesday and Thursday, with the third office to be set by both the employee and their manager. Even so, the rigidity of the announcement has already seen Apple’s head of machine learning, Ian Goodfellow, quit the company (to go to Google) in search of more flexible work.

Apple Together has become a powerful voice inside a company that has previously been famed for its culture of secrecy. Revelations published earlier this year say that the company retaliated against women who reported incidents of misconduct, including sexual assault. Ashley Gjøvik was fired after blowing the whistle about unsafe working conditions at an office in Sunnyvale. The company also stands accused of union busting after its retail employees at several locations across the US started discussing forming a union.