Apple CEO Tim Cook asked employees last Wednesday to return to the office three days a week starting in September, after over a year working remotely because of the pandemic.
“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,” he said. “Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.”
However, Apple employees — who would still have the option of working remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays — reacted angrily, demanding a flexible approach to their work in a letter obtained by The Verge.
“We would like to take the opportunity to communicate a growing concern among our colleagues,” the letter says. “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.”
The letter continued to accuse Apple of ignoring the needs of employees.
“Over the last year we often felt not just unheard, but at times actively ignored,” the letter says. “Messages like, ‘we know many of you are eager to reconnect in person with your colleagues back in the office,’ with no messaging acknowledging that there are directly contradictory feelings amongst us feels dismissive and invalidating…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.”
The letter described a list of “ benefits of remote and location-flexible work for a large number of our colleagues,” which included “Diversity and Inclusion in Retention and Hiring,” “Tearing Down Previously Existing Communication Barriers,” “Better Work Life Balance,” “Better Integration of Existing Remote / Location-Flexible Workers, and the “Reduced Spread of Pathogens.”
The letter then outlined a specific set of requests.
We are formally requesting that Apple considers remote and location-flexible work decisions to be as autonomous for a team to decide as are hiring decisions.
We are formally requesting a company-wide recurring short survey with a clearly structured and transparent communication / feedback process at the company-wide level, organization-wide level, and team-wide level, covering topics listed below.
We are formally requesting a question about employee churn due to remote work be added to exit interviews.
We are formally requesting a transparent, clear plan of action to accommodate disabilities via onsite, offsite, remote, hybrid, or otherwise location-flexible work.
We are formally requesting insight into the environmental impact of returning to onsite in-person work, and how permanent remote-and-location-flexibility could offset that impact.
“This is not a petition, though it may resemble one. This is a plea: let’s work together to truly welcome everyone forward,” the letter concluded.
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