Apple employees call for more flexibility in return-to-work plan

Employees, organized under a newly formed group known as Apple Together which champions worker welfare and rights, are asking leaders for more flexibility. They also point to a disconnect between the company’s external marketing to customers that its products allow people to “work from anywhere” and its internal messaging to staff members. “How can we understand what remote working issues need to be addressed in our products, if we don’t live it?” bed one open letter addressed to the company’s management and posted Friday on the Apple Together website.

“We are not asking that everyone be forced to work from home,” the letter continues.
“We ask to decide for ourselves, with our teams and our direct manager, what type of work organization best suits each of us, whether in an office, working remotely or in a hybrid approach. “

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter and did not respond to an earlier request for comment on its return-to-work plans.

Apple’s hybrid throwback driver initially sparked a backlash in June 2021 after being introduced to staff members, but Apple, like most companies, pushed back the rollout following new variants of Covid-19 in the fall and winter. Following the delays, Apple began its phased approach to bringing workers back to the office, starting with once a week in early April before moving to twice a week more recently. The company presented its most recent schedule for employees in an email, the text of which was published by The Verge.
Friday’s letter, which calls the pilot a “step backwards in flexibility for many of our teams”, comes ahead of the final phase of Apple’s driverwhich is expected to come into effect at the end of May, where workers will be expected in the office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

It sets out the specific reasons they contest the pilot, ranging from forcing workers to commute unnecessarily – “a huge waste of time as well as mental and physical resources” – to what they see as an impact inevitable on diversity. “Apple will probably always find people willing to work here, but…being in the office at least 3 fixed days of the week…will make Apple younger, whiter, more male-dominated, more neuro-normative, more capable-body, in short, it will lead to privileges in deciding who can work for Apple, not who would be best suited,” the letter adds.

One of the organizers, an employee who works on hardware engineering in the Bay Area and asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, told CNN Business that about 200 workers were engaged with Apple Together. (In contrast, Apple Together said the company has more than 100,000 employees in the United States, including its retail staff.) The group and public advocacy for internal change is remarkable given that the inner workings of the company are long shrouded in secrecy. But the tide has turned in recent months, with retail workers at at least two Apple stores in the United States seeking to unionize, and the emergence of the “Apple too” initiative, from which Apple Together was born.
Launched last August by two former Apple employees, “Apple Too” aimed to encourage workers to tell their stories of racism, sexism and discrimination in a bid to push for change. (One of the former employees, Janneke Parrish, was fired; she has since filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board for retaliation. The other, Cher Scarlett, left Apple in November; she also has complaints pending with the Labor Board. A spokesperson for Apple previously declined to comment on these cases.)
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According to the current employee, a committee of Apple Together employees drafted the letter in recent weeks after some staff members previously tried to raise concerns within Apple’s internal channels “to no avail.”

“There’s such a disconnect between executive leadership and individuals,” the employee said, noting that while some managers may want flexibility themselves or may understand the individual needs of their direct reports, “the higher you go in the chain, the more empathy erodes.”

The letter, published on the 12th anniversary of the late Steve Jobs’ “Thoughts on Flash” open letter and borrowing its format, ends with a nod to the visionary co-founder of Apple.

“As Steve said, ‘It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.’ Here we are, the smart people you’ve hired, and we’re telling you what to do: Please get out of our way, there’s no one size fits all, let us decide how best to work, and let us do the best work of our lives.”

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