Apple’s Hybrid Remote Work Model
July 5, 2021
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by Stephen Kanyi

The global pandemic brought a lot of changes to the corporate world in recruitment, investment and most relevantly the remote work model. Due to the lockdowns, most employees have had to work from home and for most companies, it has worked well. Even the tech industry which is known for face-to-face collaboration to foster faster idea diffusion and therefore innovation has had to adapt, mostly to hybrid remote work.

Google for instance first had employees spend three days a week at the office. Today however up to 20% of its workforce operates from home with a further 20% working in different office locations closer to their homes.

Facebook’s policy on the other hand is to let those who can work remotely do so. This includes the majority of its 15000 global reviewers. Twitter has a similar policy where since March 2020 most of its 4900 workforce was allowed to operate remotely for ‘as long as they wanted.’

While these changes may have been effected due to the pandemic many employees have really embraced working from home and most do not want to return to the office. And this is understandable, even expected. I mean let’s face it, offices are not the best place to hang out, work or not.  Most are dull, lifeless and keep you from your friends and family.

Apple’s Model

Despite this Apple has stood out from its tech peers in terms of employee working model. During the height of the pandemic, Apple was forced to close all of its retail stores and most of its employees were working from home.

Come May this year with the slow re-opening of the global economy CEO Tim Cook sent a letter detailing plans to have most of Apple employees back in the office on set days; Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. As long as employees got manager approval, they were free to work from home on Wednesday and Thursday. This does not however apply to all employees as some will have to be in-office for four or five days a week depending on their role. That was the company’s attempt at hybrid remote work.

Despite the memo reading: “to be closer to family and loved ones, find a change of scenery, manage unexpected travel, or a different reason all your own,” the new policy will have most of its employees, mostly those in their retail stores report to work on most days of the week. This model is however meant to be a piloted model to be reviewed at the end of 2022.

Employee Dissent

This recent letter was not however well received among all employees. According to a report on The Verge several employees crafted a letter to express their displeasure with the incoming plan.

In the letter, the employees explain that the policy and ‘the communication around it had already forced some 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. This is a decision none of us take lightly and a decision many would prefer not to have to make.

Over the last year, we often felt not just unheard but at times actively ignored. 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.”

Now while Apple’s policy may seem a little unfair to its employees especially at a time of crisis it is understandable. Apple is after all primarily a hardware company that operates on selling its gadgets on the custom Apple stores. In fact, this recent announcement was seen by many as a positive step in terms of embracing remote work.

What is however worrying is that there are specific days to report to work i.e. Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. This particular specification and I’m sure coupled with specific time stamps for reporting, does not bode well for a workforce that is just recovering from a long period of remote work.

If there is one thing I have learnt in my short time in the corporate world it is that radical changes in an organization like the one Tim Cook announced, do not go without their hiccups. The fact is human beings take some time to accept and adapt to change.

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