Monday, March 7, 2022

Apple Employees Returning to Offices

Kim Lyons (Hacker News):

Apple will begin phasing in its planned hybrid work pilot on April 11th, bringing employees back to the office one day a week to start, according to an email from CEO Tim Cook to Apple employees, which was seen by The Verge. Apple originally announced its plans for a hybrid work pilot in November.

In the third week of the pilot, Cook writes, employees will come in twice a week, with the full hybrid pilot — where workers will come into the office on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday and work “flexibly” on Wednesday and Friday — would go into effect May 23rd. The timing may vary from office to office depending on local conditions, Cook added.


I left Apple after years of lack of any flexibility on the remote work process. They wouldn’t allow transferring to any alternative office for most teams. From what I understood, VPs could protect a small minority of some of their employees if a senior leader made a case to them.

Unfortunately, this just seemed to lead to the most politically connected folks going remote and directors friends and favorite hires getting the perk.


COVID made my situation worse at Apple. I worked in a satellite office (NYC), and while in the office, most folks in California were reluctant to schedule meetings later than ~2pm california time because they didn’t want to keep people in the office late. When we went fully remote, suddenly it seems like any compunctions about that vanished; I would have meetings until 9pm 3 nights a week, I guess because the managers figured that we were already home.


Fair warning: my experience has been very different than yours or tombert’s in most respects and some things have changed over time (some OSS contributions are now much easier, a very recent change). It is also the first company I’ve worked for that backed up appreciation for my efforts with compensation to match, and where my management chain cared about burnout and mental health with actions rather than empty words.

It is still primarily an on-site company. That might mean on-site an an office in San Diego, Austin, Philadelphia, NYC, etc. But in-office nonetheless.

Every team does things differently, even down to the department or individual manager level. Compared to the other FAANGs it is far more varied in most respects.


Update (2022-04-15): Mark Gurman:

Last month, Apple published a promotional video titled Escape From the Office. The heroes of the almost 9-minute ad are a group of employees at a fictional company called ARCA who respond to the requirement that they return to a physical office by quitting and launching their own startup. Using Apple’s iPads, MacBook Pros, and software, they then build their own office-less business.

A week before its tribute to remote work, Apple Inc. gave its own workers a timeline by which they’d have to return to their offices. To some, including the 7,500 of Apple’s 165,000 employees who belong to a Slack room dedicated to advocating for remote work, it was bruising. “They are trolling us, right?” one wrote.

Juli Clover:

Corporate Apple employees in the United States began returning to their offices today, ending a two-year work from home policy that Apple implemented during the pandemic.

Chance Miller:

Apple is one of the few Silicon Valley companies mandating in-person work. Twitter is allowing its employees to permanently work from home, as can most Facebook employees. Google is mandating some teams return to in-person work starting as early as this month, but many employees are able to permanently work from home.

Apple’s insistence on a return to in-person could be impacting its retention.


A final, important piece of context is that another wave of COVID-19 is believed to be brewing in the United States. This variant, coined BA.2, is a subvariant of the highly infectious Omicron variant. While the extent of how big this wave will be remains unclear, many Apple employees have voiced concern about returning to work amid the uncertainty caused by this new variant.

Miguel de Icaza:

Sadly, this Apple policy is only going to drive talent away, and people with intimate knowledge of their products.

Ken Kocienda:

Only, big tech companies generally don’t value individuals for their specific tech work, and certainly not in a way that matches the mental model built up over years by a lot of folks.

I’m afraid the actual value structure inside big tech companies is far more political and dog-eat-dog than we’d like to admit.

Apparently, this has come as a surprise to many. Thus, the compulsory call back to the office has caused much dismay and much angst is felt.

Andrew Wooster:

Big tech companies still haven’t quite come to terms with the reality that if you can make $1 million a year off of an employee, and they want to make $300k, live in Tahoe, and work remotely, that is still a bargain.

Instead, management that lives 15 minutes from the office, in $5m homes in Los Altos/Portola Valley/Palo Alto, want people to commute 2+ hours a day from Gilroy so they can have some “face time”.

Dan Grover:

I didn’t understand why SV tech workers were so loathe to return to the office. The offices are lovely and all day Zoom sucks. Now it sinks in: it’s not the office, it’s the commute.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

I left a job in the AMP org (Music/TV/iTunes) about 6 months ago when it became clear they would not let me continue working remotely despite promoting me for a project that was conceived and executed while fully remote. I had 3 levels of manager support but needed Eddie Cue to approve. (They actually made it harder to be permanently remote during the pandemic). I also offered to work from an existing office in my new location that was used by another org (Maps or iCloud) but that was not allowed either.

My replacement role is still open and they plan to fill it with a team member who is remote from the rest of the team (in an AMP satellite office) because they're tapped out on both space and talent in the South Bay area.

They may be able to find plenty of generic warm bodies for the trenches but this is killing morale for a large number of talented people that do great work at Apple.

The thing is that most of these teams already collaborate with teams in other offices. This was a huge problem for us in the past, where offices became very tribal, and collaboration between locations was difficult.

The pandemic completely solved this. All the local tribes just disappeared, people were forced to always collaborate online, and communication improved. It's odd to me that these companies think they'll gain anything from forcing people back into offices.

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