Apple Employees Protest Return to the Office in Letter to Tim Cook
A group of employees have sent an internal letter to Tim Cook
and Apple’s executive leadership protesting the requirement
that employees return to work in the office beginning September.
According to The Verge, the letter was started in a Slack channel
for ‘remote work advocates’. The channel has around 2800 members.
The letter asks Apple to allow individual management chains and
teams to make decisions that are best for their teams, noting that
even while in the office, a lot of work requires remote communication.
“Orgs are rarely co-located within walking distance, let alone in
the same building, meaning our best collaboration has always
required remote communication with teams in other offices and
across timezones, since long before the pandemic.
We encourage distributed work from our business partners,
and we’ve been a remote-communication necessary company for
some time, a vision of the future that Steve Jobs himself
predicated in an interview from 1990.”
You can read the full letter below…
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Dear Tim and Executive Leadership,
Thank you for your thoughtful considerations on a hybrid approach
to returning to office work, and for sharing it with all of us
early this week. We appreciate your efforts in navigating what
has been undeniably an incredibly difficult time for everyone
around the world, and doing so for over one hundred thousand
people. We are certain you have more plans than were shared
on Wednesday, but are following Apple’s time-honored tradition
of only announcing things when they are ready.
However, we feel like the current policy is not sufficient in addressing
many of our needs, so we want to take some time to explain ourselves.
This past year has been an unprecedented challenge for our company;
we had to learn how to deliver the same quality of products
and services that Apple is known for, all while working almost
completely remotely. We did so, achieving another record-setting year.
We found a way for everyone to support each other and succeed
in a completely new way of working together from locations
we were able to choose at our own discretion (often at home).
However, 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. This is a decision none
of us take lightly, and a decision many would prefer not to
have to make. These concerns are largely what prompted
us to advocate for changes to these policies,
and data collected will reflect those concerns.
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.
For many of us at Apple, we have succeeded not despite working
from home, but in large part because of being able to work
outside the office. The last year has felt like we have truly been
able to do the best work of our lives for the first time,
unconstrained by the challenges that daily commutes to offices
and in-person co-located offices themselves inevitably impose;
all while still being able to take better care of
ourselves and the people around us.
Looking around the corner, we believe the future of work will be
significantly more location and timezone flexible. In fact,
we are already a distributed company with offices all over the
world and across many different timezones. Apple’s organizationa
l hierarchy lends itself towards offices that often follow the same
structure, wherein people in the same organization are more
likely to be co-located in an office. At the same time,
we strongly encourage cross-functional, cross-organization collaboration,
and our organization’s many horizontal teams reflect this.
Such collaboration is widely celebrated across our organization,
and arguably leads us to our best results — it’s one of the things
that makes Apple, Apple. However, orgs are rarely co-located
within walking distance, let alone in the same building,
meaning our best collaboration has always required remote
communication with teams in other offices and across timezones,
since long before the pandemic. We encourage distributed work
from our business partners, and we’ve been a remote-communication
necessary company for some time, a vision of the future that
Steve Jobs himself predicated in an interview from 1990.
This may explain how mandatory out-of-office work enabled
tearing down cross-functional communication
barriers to deliver even better results.
Almost all of us have worked fully remote for over a year now,
though the experience arguably would have been better less one
pandemic. We have developed two major versions of all our
operating systems, organized two full WWDCs, introduced
numerous new products, transitioned to our own chipsets,
and supported our customers with the same level of care as before.
We have already piloted location-flexible work the last 15 months
under much more extreme conditions and we were very successful
in doing so, finding the following benefits of remote and
location-flexible work for a large number of our colleagues:
● Diversity and Inclusion in Retention and Hiring
● Tearing Down Previously Existing Communication Barriers
● Better Work Life Balance
● Better Integration of Existing Remote / Location-Flexible Workers
● Reduced Spread of Pathogens
We ask for your support in enabling those who want to work
remotely/in location-flexible ways to continue to do so,
letting everyone figure out which work setup works best for them,
their team, and their role — be it in one of our offices, from home,
or a hybrid solution. We are living proof that there is no
one-size-fits-all policy for people. For Inclusion and Diversity to work,
we have to recognize how different we all are, and with those differences,
come different needs and different ways to thrive. We feel that
Apple has both the responsibility to recognize these differences,
as well as the capability to fully embrace them. Officially enabling
individual management chains and individual teams to make
decisions that work best for their teams roles, individuals, and needs
and having that be the official stated policy rather than the rare
individual exceptions — would alleviate the concerns
and reservations many of us currently have.
We understand that inertia is real and that change is difficult to achieve.
The pandemic forcing us to work from home has given us
a unique opportunity. Most of the change has already happened,
remote/location-flexible work is currently the “new normal,”
we just need to make sure we make the best of it now. We believe that
Apple has the ability to be a leader in this realm, not by declaring
‘everyone just work from home for forever,’ as some other companies
have done, but by declaring an official broad paradigm policy,
that allows individual leaders to make decisions that will enable their
teams to do the best work of their lives. We strongly believe this
is the ideal moment to “burn the boats” — to boldly declare
‘yes this can be done, and done successfully,
because there is no other choice for the future.’
We have gathered some of our requests and action items to
help continue the conversation and make sure everyone is heard.
● 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.
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We have great respect for Apple and its leadership; we strongly believe
in the Innovation and Thinking Differently (from “the way things
have always been done” and “industry standards”) that are part
of Apple’s DNA. We all wish to continue to “bleed six colors”
at Apple itself and not elsewhere. At Apple, our most important
resource, our soul, is our people, and we believe that ensuring we
are all heard, represented, and validated is how we continue
to defend and protect that precious sentiment.
This is not a petition, though it may resemble one. This is a plea:
let’s work together to truly welcome everyone forward.