CEO Tim Cook continues to encounter stubborn opposition from some staff within Apple’s workforce, to his order that they return to the office.

Last week Tim Cook in a memo to all staff, said corporate staff must return to the office three days a week, from Monday 5th September 2022.

But the FT has reported that Apple staff are unhappy at the order, and have launched a petition saying the firm risked stifling diversity and staff wellbeing by restricting their ability to work remotely.

Delayed return

Last week Tim Cook had told all staff in the Bay Area that they would be expected to come in to the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, in addition to a third day every week that is decided by individual teams.

Staff have the option of working remotely twice a week, and the shift to a flexible day in addition to the two midweek days will allow some staff to continue to have four unbroken days at home each week.

This is a more flexible option, after staff had initially opposed Apple’s hybrid work model back in June 2021.

Back then Apple said that staff were expected to come in to the office on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, with the option of working remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Cook’s recall notice in June 2021 prompted resistance from employees, with an internal letter from Apple staff demanding more flexibility. The staff letter also stated Apple’s return-to-office policy had “already forced some of our colleagues to quit”.

However the staff protests dwindled after Apple continued to delay the hybrid work model due to the pandemic.

Return to office

Then in April this year, Apple again issued a return-to-work policy starting in May, prompting many staff (once again) to threaten to resign.

Indeed, Ian Goodfellow, Apple’s director of machine learning, actually quit his job at Apple – just two years after he was poached from Google to rejuvenate Apple’s Siri and the company’s other AI projects.

Goodfellow explicitly cited the return-to-work policy as the reason for his departure. He rejoined Google working for its Deepmind division.

The April indict stated that from early May staff would be required to come into the office on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday every week.

But in May Apple opted to delay its big return to the office plans, allowing most staff to continue working from home. It also launched a pilot that required some employees to report to its offices two days a week.

Staff petition

Now after Tim Cook’s order last week, Apple staff are once again demonstrating their resistance, and a group of Apple staffers have banded together under the name Apple Together.

This group have circulated a petition pushing back against Cook’s orders, saying greater flexibility would promote diversity within the company.

“For the past 2+ years, Apple’s formerly office-based employees have performed exceptional work, flexibly, both outside and inside traditional office environments,” the group website states. “However, Apple leadership recently announced they require a general return to office starting the week of Sept 5 (Labor Day). This uniform mandate from senior leadership does not consider the unique demands of each job role nor the diversity of individuals.”

They point out that those asking for more flexible arrangements have many compelling reasons and circumstances: from disabilities (visible or not); family care; safety, health, and environmental concerns; financial considerations; to just plain being happier and more productive.

They are making the following demands:

  • Apple allows each staffer to work directly with their immediate manager to figure out what kind of flexible work arrangements are best for each of employee and for Apple.
  • These work arrangements should not require higher level approvals, complex procedures, or providing private information.

The group have tweeted Apple staff about the petition on Monday, in an effort to drum up support.

Apple Together reportedly intends to collect signatures this week before verifying them and sending them to the iPhone makers’ executives.

Apple was well known in the tech industry for discouraging working from home, prior to Coronavirus pandemic.

Apple also differs from other tech firms such as Twitter and Facebook, which gives employees the option to opt for permanent home working.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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