Apple Employees Protest Return to the Office in Letter to Tim Cook

Apple Employees Protest Return to the Office in Letter to Tim Cook

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…


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.

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.

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