One week before it would have required most employees to spend three days at the office, Apple has backed down, citing rising COVID cases.
Apple announced in early March that it would require most employees to spend at least three days each week in the office by May 23. That demand set off a revolt with Apple’s employee base, with over three thousand of them, going by the name Apple Together, publishing a public letter asking Tim Cook and the executive staff for some flexibility.
“We are not asking for everyone to be forced to work from home,” the letter notes. “We are asking to decide for ourselves, together with our teams and direct manager, what kind of arrangement works best for each one of us, be that in an office, work from home, or a hybrid approach. Stop treating us like school kids who need to be told when to be where and what homework to do.” (That Apple’s paternalism, as I call it, extends from its customers to its employees should not surprise anyone.)
Today, Apple sent a memo to all employees telling them that a COVID resurgence will delay the come to the office requirement “for the time being,” and that the firm will reduce the number of days eventually required from 3 to 2. This will start with a pilot program that will expand in the coming weeks, and anyone “uncomfortable coming into the office” will have the “option to work remotely.” Employees who do return to the office will need to wear masks in common areas and elevators, and Apple said it will continue to monitor COVID cases to determine the new timing.
That’s more flexible, for sure, but as the Apple Together letter explains, Steve Jobs once observed that “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.” Maybe it’s time for Cook to listen a bit more.