Apple employee reluctance to return to office highlights hybrid work dilemma

8 June 2021

In less socially-distanced times: Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks during an Apple special event on the Apple Park campus in 2017. (Photo by JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Apple is reportedly facing employee resistance to its hybrid work plan to bring employees back to the office starting in September. The iPhone maker, which faces a dilemma similar to other firms seeking to reopen after pandemic restrictions, has called for employees to return three days a week starting in September, according to the tech news site The Verge.

But at least 80 employees have signed a letter calling for more flexibility for employees who have been working remotely for more than a year. “We would like to take the opportunity to communicate a growing concern among our colleagues,” according to the letter cited by the news website.

“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.”

Like its tech peers and many other firms, Apple has allowed employees to work from home or remote locations since the pandemic lockdowns began last year. Google, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft have unveiled similar hybrid schemes for workers, while some firms such as Twitter have told employees they can work remotely indefinitely.

The Apple letter said the remote system worked well and can offer employees better work-life balance compared to an office setting, while accommodating those with special needs and reducing the risk of contagion. “Not only do many of us already feel well-connected with our colleagues worldwide, but better-connected now than ever,” the letter said.

“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.”

Apple in 2017 opened its “spaceship” campus, one of several multibillion-dollar headquarters buildings designed for Silicon Valley giants.