Apple Employees Not Quite Ready To Quit Working From Home In Their Pajamas
As COVID-19 vaccination rates rise, companies are reopening their offices. USA Today reported that 72 percent of workplaces will welcome back employees over the next five months, and 50 percent of companies will reopen between August and October. Hooray! Tim Cook at Apple announced last week that he expects employees back in the office three days a week starting in September. They can choose to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays. Apple will also generously permit employees to work remotely for up to two weeks a year "to be closer to family and loved ones, find a change of scenery, manage unexpected travel, or a different reason all your own," according to an email from Cook. Remote work requests are subject to manager approval, so good luck with that.
Apple employees weren't thrilled with the news, and some staff members advocated in an internal message for "a flexible approach where those who want to work remote can do so."
"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."
That seems reasonable, however “Internet entrepreneur" Jason Calacanis mocked Apple employees' concerns. He tweeted: “175K+ a year & they won't come in 3 days a week to a $4b building with free food." Yes, Apple's corporate headquarters cost an estimated $5 billion, which is probably not as relevant to the staff as it is to the global corporation that doesn't want its four-story, 2,800,000 square foot building (called the “spaceship") to sit empty. This is a concern for a lot of businesses stuck with expensive leases, but there's a nationwide housing shortage. Some of the individual offices are larger than a studio apartment.
It's also not surprising that employees with six-figure salaries wouldn't consider free food a major incentive. They can buy their own kettle corn and fruit smoothies. If Apple has a surplus of free meals, the company could help out with Silicon Valley's increased demand for food assistance during the pandemic.
NBC News Senior Business Correspondent Stephanie Ruhle was also fed up with the ingrates at Apple.
Ruhle tweeted on Saturday:
“If you don't want to go back to your super rad job at Apple, no need to revolt ... just quit. Someone else will gladly take your job."
Politely requesting better working conditions isn't a “revolt." The job at Apple could be “super rad" or even “totally tubular," but the flexibility of remote work is priceless, especially if you're a working parent. Schools haven't fully reopened, so all these announcements from corporations have big “cart before the horse" energy.
The New York Times ran article last month titled “Will Schools Open In The Fall?" Parents are still clinging to vague questions about in-person schooling instead of more helpful declarative statements.
Many schools and day care centers have not returned to normal operations. They are open for only a few hours a day, a few days a week or on alternating weeks, making it difficult for parents to return to a full-time job. And parenting responsibilities still fall disproportionately on women.
This situation is unlikely to change over the final month or two of the current school year. But it raises a major question about the start of the next school year, in August and September: Will schools fully reopen — every day, Monday through Friday, and every week?
The Times notes that if whatever currently passes for schooling continues into the fall, it will exact a heavy cost on working mothers, because everything fucking does.
Ruhle, a true woman of the people, doesn't understand or respect the many legitimate reasons people might want to continue working remotely. Many employees at Silicon Valley companies moved in search of larger, more affordable homes during the pandemic. It was a major lifestyle change, which was mutually beneficial because companies could safely continue operations.
Some businesses have tried to hide behind BS stats claiming remote work resulted in a drop in productivity. That's hardly a fair comparison when working parents were also part-time schoolteachers.
Ruhle's position isn't smart business, either. Apple offered lots of perks, sure, but if the flexibility of remote work is the most appealing benefit for top talent, employees will look elsewhere.
Apple's announcement amounts to an easing of restrictions compared to its previous company culture, which famously discouraged employees from working from home prior to the pandemic. Yet it's still more conservative compared to other tech giants. Both Twitter and Facebook have told employees they can work from home forever, even after the pandemic ends. Sure, the Apple Park campus is beautiful and offers every material comfort, but so did The Village on The Prisoner.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."