Apple Plans September Return to Offices for Employees

Posted on June 3, 2021 by Paul Thurrott in Apple with 27 Comments

Apple CEO Tim Cook emailed employees to inform them that they are expected to return to their offices for at least three days each week starting in September. Most of Apple’s employees have been working from home since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but some of the firm’s Asian offices have already reopened.

“For all that we’ve been able to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: Each other,” Mr. Cook wrote. “Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.”

To optimize in-person collaboration, Apple is requiring employees to adopt what Cook calls “consistent days in the office.” That is, rather than allowing employees to determine which three days they come to the office, Apple expects most to do so on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, at a minimum, and they can work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays. Additionally, Apple’s employees can work remotely for two full weeks each year going forward.

Apple’s in-office requirements seem stricter than the rules imposed by its Big Tech rivals. Google, for example, will allow most employees to work from home for at least three days each week. And Microsoft is offering even more flexible choices, with most employees able to choose between working remotely, working in a hybrid model, or returning to the offices full-time.

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Comments (27)

27 responses to “Apple Plans September Return to Offices for Employees”

  1. LT1 Z51

    I find it laughable that big tech is being more stringent than automotive companies. Shouldn't tech be possible to be entirely remote? I don't get how you can't do your job from anywhere. We have 3000 lbs vehicles that we use as test beds and my job is 95% remote (granted I can sometimes drive my test bed home).

    • mikegalos

      You'll note it's not "big tech" but Apple that's being that strict with employees working at the facility. Perhaps because they have that huge new "spaceship" headquarters complex to justify.

      • LT1 Z51

        Microsoft walked back from and Google did too in terms of forcing people to go back in.

        It's weird that the folks who led the way in workplace amenities are now the laggards in terms of remote work, and as another poster said it's likely due to the investment in the buildings. They don't want you to go home.

        Legacy industries like automotive are using this opportunity to shrink foot prints, move to shared spaces, and even abolish the 5 day work week in terms of commuting. Those people not in customer facing parts of the business/manufacturing will never return to a 5 day in the office.

        Where I work, I don't see us being in the office more than 3 days a week. EVER. It likely will be 1 or 2 days depending on what tools you need access to.

      • bettyblue

        Mike, I get the feeling that you, like Paul, are not fans of Apple :)

      • red.radar

        Could also be security related. They may see remote work as a liability to IP and information control.

    • cavalier_eternal

      Yes, in the 10 years that Tim Cook has made Apple one of the most profitable companies in the world with a 2 trillion dollar market cap and he did it with jackass decision making like; “Well I have to justify the existence of a building that built four years ago and houses less that 10% of my workforce.” . It certainly wasn’t because of his business acumen or understanding of what makes the company most productive and without a doubt he wouldn’t use any sort of data.

      Mike, you sure got it figured out!

    • wright_is

      We are on a rotating basis in home office - we created 2 teams of 2 people, one team each week, one member does Mon. - Wed. and the other one Thu and Fri. Then they swap, then the other team is in the office.

      But it is a pain not being in the office together. That quick shout across the office, when something goes wrong, like Teams, the telephone system or email going down or a quick bit of consultation on a problem. You can do a lot of that with Teams, for example, but it isn't as easy or as friendly as actually sitting there and talking, face-to-face. You also get a much better idea of what is going on elsewhere in the department, because you overhear conversations. Being in home office, unless you are invited to a meeting about a different project, you often don't hear anything about it at all, until it is being implemented.

      We are due to go back to either 2 people in the office at once or the full team in July at the moment and I'm looking forward to it.

    • Jester

      I'm a tech at a large auto dealer. Been open the whole time, never had any issues.

  2. bluvg

    In all these announcements, there's little mention of the adverse impact of requiring all gathering in the same place regardless of need. Yes, it can be more productive in person, for some things. But you can't simplistically weigh that in a vacuum against output from WFH, hour-for-hour only. You must also take into account the time, fuel costs, additional vehicle expense and maintenance, and environmental impact of commuting; buying meals away from home (or additional prep for bringing food with you); differences in office building rent, operational costs, maintenance; etc. etc. Whatever productivity is gained must outweigh those things, and I very much doubt they're considered.

    The mandate for certain days also seems perhaps well-intentioned but a non sequitur from the argument. Why not just require in-office meetings case-by-case, when it's obvious in-person will be much more productive (outweighing the downsides)? It seems to reflect a lack of trust that teams can decide for themselves what's efficient and what's not, based on a storied fantasy of "watercooler chats" that launch the next $1B opportunity can't possibly happen without this watercooler everyone supposedly frequents.

  3. bsobotta

    I enjoy 2 to 3 days a week split between home and work. Its nice to head in and some days its nice to work from home. I could do my job fully at home or fully at work also, but a balance is nice.

  4. martinm

    Most all tech companies have made impressive profits during the pandemic, so it seems to me remote work is working just fine. If you can't work full time in a tech company from a remote location, something is wrong. Lets face it, its been completely proven in the last 18 months.

    • cavalier_eternal

      Somewhat myopic view. Apple is a software company, a hardware company, one of the largest retails in the world, a large customer organization. Twitter, Facebook, Google are all primarily software (the latter two dabble in hardware). To lump them al in at tech companies as if they all do the same kind of work really over simplifies the situation.

  5. minke

    I suspect even Apple will lose some employees who have learned to love WFH in a location of their choosing that is half the cost of Silicon Valley. I know a person in another top 5 company that is planning on leaving rather than going back to the grind in the office with a lousy commute and having to live in a place she doesn't like while paying through the nose to do so. A branch of a company I used to work for had no real office--everyone including the bosses lived wherever they wanted to. They were the most profitable division in our company. Depending on the work and how it is set up WFH can be great for both the employees and the company.

  6. crunchyfrog

    This was entirely predictable. After one year and the pandemic receding, you'll see most companies having folks head back to the office.

  7. SyncMe

    It is very difficult to develop hardware remotely.

  8. richfrantz

    The metrics have my team being more productive WFH according to mgmt. No talk of bringing us in. Good. I hate my commute. I-10 through PHX. IYKYK

  9. dell5050

    Time to go back to work. Time to be an adult and go back to the office.

    • LT1 Z51

      Why does being in the office make you an adult?

      Last time I checked we aren't still wearing suits to work every day. I'm sure if someone from the 1950's wandered into any office (even pre-pandemic) they would be like "what is this a day care?"

      The office hasn't been "professional" in most of my adult life (graduated in 2004 from university).

  10. bettyblue

    We just started full time back at the office this week. Prior to that it was 3 days a week for the last 30 days. Masks are optional if you have been fully vaccinated. My state/country made that an option 2-3 weeks ago now. Basically to me covid is done.

    Personally I much prefer that office, nice home/work break. Granted I live a whole 1.2miles from work.

  11. red.radar

    Looks like the experiment of remote work is coming to an end. Most are going to ease people back into the office full time.

    I don’t disagree with the approach. Engineering and Technology jobs are creative and collaborative. That is most effective when you can fully engage with your colleagues.

    I have enjoyed the new flexibility. When there are days I am just working on documentation and or emails, working from home allows me to focus and not get redirected by other office activities

  12. daniel7878

    There's no substitute for a team collaborating face to face in an office settings. My team is a bunch of wall flowers that you have to drag any social interaction out of. Trying to get them to interact on a voice call has been painful all year.

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