Apple employees call for more flexible remote work policy in letter to Tim Cook

Earlier this week, Tim Cook communicated Apple’s plans for a hybrid working environment beginning in September. This plan, which would require that most Apple employees work in-person three days a week, is now facing pushback internally from employees who feel the company is not being flexible enough for those who want to work remotely on a more regular basis.

The Verge obtained an internal letter circulating within Apple in which employees write that they have felt “not just unheard, but at times actively ignored” over the last year when it comes to communication about in-person versus remote work. The employees write in the letter that some have even quit over Apple’s lack of a flexible work policy:

We would like to take the opportunity to communicate a growing concern among our colleagues. That Apple’s remote/location-flexible work policy, and the communication around it, have already forced some of our colleagues to quit. Without the inclusivity that flexibility brings, many of us feel we have to choose between either a combination of our families, our well-being, and being empowered to do our best work, or being a part of Apple.

Over the last year we often felt not just unheard, but at times actively ignored. Messages like, ‘we know many of you are eager to reconnect in person with your colleagues back in the office,’ with no messaging acknowledging that there are directly contradictory feelings amongst us feels dismissive and invalidating. Not only do many of us already feel well-connected with our colleagues worldwide, but better-connected now than ever. We’ve come to look forward to working as we are now, without the daily need to return to the office. It feels like there is a disconnect between how the executive team thinks about remote / location-flexible work and the lived experiences of many of Apple’s employees.

The letter is addressed directly to Apple CEO Tim Cook. It originated in a Slack channel with around 2,800 members for “remote work advocates.” The Verge says that around 80 people were involved with writing the note. It was sent to Apple employees to sign on Friday afternoon. The employees make several specific requests:

  • 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.

The internal note comes after Tim Cook communicated with Apple employees earlier this week that the company will begin a return to in-person work this fall after a year of remote work prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the plan, most employees will be asked to come into the office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. They will be able to work remotely, if they so desire, on Wednesdays and Fridays. Certain teams will be required to return to in-person work four to five days per week. This is a more relaxed approach than Apple has previously taken to remote work, but as this note indications, some employees still want the company to do more.

Whether or not Cook and other Apple leadership executives are receptive to this new note form employees remains to be seen. You can read the full email at The Verge.

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