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Apple’s hybrid theory – staff quitting over remote work policy

Disgruntled employees threaten to quit rather than return to the office

When the pandemic hit last year, Apple was forced to take its workforce remote. Despite employees working from home for the past year and a half, the company has performed incredibly well. Its pre-recorded keynotes and fully remote WWDC have been a smash hit, and earnings reports keep breaking all-time sales records. Good job, home workers.

So why is Apple dead set against letting those employees continue to work remotely now that pandemic restrictions are easing?

Part of it may understandably boil down to not wanting to waste its recent $5 billion investment in the massive Apple Park campus in Cupertino. But there’s also the fact that, historically, Apple’s creative teams have thrived in a collaborative, social environment. “In-person collaboration is essential to our culture and our future,” says Apple.

“Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.” That was the message CEO Tim Cook gave to employees as he laid out Apple’s new hybrid work policy: return to the office three days a week, with the option to work remotely for the two remaining days.

A great deal of Apple employees aren’t happy with this hybrid policy, however. A group chat in Slack of over 6,000 employees have formally complained, claiming that “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.”

While it’s true that this is a fairly flexible arrangement compared to many companies, it’s far less progressive than many of the other Silicon Valley giants. Facebook and Twitter are reportedly allowing workers to continue to be fully remote if they wish.

Compounding the issue is that Apple appears to have doubled-down on its new policy, laying down rules that obliterate the power team leaders used to have to make exceptions for those who need to home work. Even employees under the Americans with Disabilities Act are (reportedly) being told they must return to the office.

As such, it’s now looking like Apple is set to lose staff over its hard line on this policy, with at least ten employees saying they will resign if changes aren’t made. Those competing tech giants are – reportedly – already trying to poach Apple’s unhappy workers.

So, is Apple right to stand by its convictions about in-person collaboration, or should it offer more flexibility to workers who have proved themselves capable of remote work already? Whatever your view, Apple certainly needs to be careful to avoid alienating a workforce that could easily move elsewhere.

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