Quitting, recruiting and other aftereffects of Apple’s work-at-work rules

From Zoe Schiffer’ “Apple employees say the company is cracking down on remote work” posted Thursday on the Verge:

Apple employees say it’s harder than ever to get remote work requests approved after the company rolled out a new hybrid model that will require people to return to the office three days a week starting in early September. Some employees say they will quit if Apple doesn’t change its stance.

While Apple historically discouraged employees from working from home, there were one-off exceptions to the rule, and some teams were more lenient than others. Now, employees say that even those exceptions are being denied. In a company Slack channel where employees advocate for remote work, roughly 10 people said they were resigning due to the hybrid work policy or knew others who’d been forced to quit. The Slack channel currently has more than 6,000 members.

The return-to-work plan has already been a flashpoint at Apple, where employees wrote a letter in June asking Apple CEO Tim Cook to reevaluate the hybrid model. Deirdre O’Brien, senior vice president of retail and people, sent a video in response saying that in-person collaboration was “essential” and noting the company would not be backing away from its current approach.

While Apple’s corporate employees certainly have more flexibility than the retail staff, some say it’s out of step with other big tech companies in Silicon Valley. Twitter and Facebook have already announced a permanent work-from-home policy, and Apple employees say they’ve been flooded with recruiting messages from other tech organizations eyeing a potential opportunity.

My take: Tim Cook has carefully positioned Apple as out-of-step with Facebook and Twitter.

Sign I’m getting old: I couldn’t make sense of the paragraph below without reading it twice and cranking my brain a couple clicks broader.

One employee said they were currently on an Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation that allowed them to work from home, but were told that accommodation would be denied when the company went back to the office. “I will be out of a job in September,” they wrote in Slack.

10 Comments

  1. Gregg Thurman said:
    Ten, or even 20X that number, out of 6,000 isn’t even normal attrition. Sounds to me like people that are thinking of accepting one of those offers is simply ready to move on, and using WFH as an excuse.

    Of course, that point doesn’t matter for a media hungry for an issue to fill its ‘pages’ with.

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    July 16, 2021
  2. Bart Yee said:
    My comment is:
    Employees, do what you need to do to make yourself feel safe and comfortable. Realize there is downside to leaving Apple while there is upside to taking risks to move to another company for a better work (from home) situation if there is one. Up may also be better pay, down is loss of any seniority or stock options. There’s always consequences to any decision.

    Tim & Apple, do what you need to do to fully return to full efficiency, assuming the pandemic does not throw a spreader event at Apple Park or imposes new out of your control local restrictions. Unfortunately September in California may still have significant risks (fingers and vaccinations needles crossed). Your policies may yet require flexibility and / or adaptations to ever changing COVID related events.

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    July 16, 2021
  3. Bart Yee said:
    “Tim Cook has carefully positioned Apple as out-of-step with Facebook and Twitter.”

    FB and Twitter deal with texts, data, and ads, their users being strictly online and their “paying customers” being advertisers who can also work online.

    Apple meanwhile designs and makes physical things, or at least prototypes. Apple also deals with users who have real physical products to deal with at every level plus physical and online sales, service, warranty, and repair. I believe some of the above had to be curtailed or reduced due to WFH, certainly in person Apple Store interactions. Returning to Apple:user interfacing as before is the goal, whether the WFW timing is on target remains to be seen. It may not be in management’s hands or control.

    3
    July 16, 2021
  4. Jerry Doyle said:
    “…. One employee said they were currently on an Americans with Disabilities Act accommodation that allowed them to work from home, but were told that accommodation would be denied when the company went back to the office. “I will be out of a job in September,” they wrote in Slack.”

    The above statement is disingenuous. As an individual involved in the development, writing of the rules, holding public hearings & enforcement of the ADA, that law does cover “reasonable accommodations” for workers. ADA, though, has no legislative mandate for workers to demand “work-from-home.” ADA mandates the Employer to make the job site accessible to individuals with disabilities and to provide reasonable accommodations for doing so and reasonable accommodations for workers to do their job tasks. Unless that law has been Amended, there is no such provision incumbent on the Employer to provide workers remote work-from-home when such job duties & tasks may be carried out on the job site. That employee may have some form of mental or emotional disability needing the accommodation of the home to do the job tasks, but I would think temporarily. I just do not see where ADA can be used to forced an Employer to offer remote work, when such working conditions are accessible at the job site & the Employer has afforded the worker reasonable accommodations to do the job tasks.

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    July 16, 2021
  5. Fred Stein said:
    Fact: 10 out of 100,000 employees.Rewrite headline; “Only .01% of Apple employees plan to leave due to new remote work rules.” Catchy? No.

    More: Many Apple employees are now set for life due their AAPL holdings. Some may retire, try a start-up, or job-hop.

    9
    July 16, 2021
  6. Turnover, while dreaded by HR, can be healthy for the overall work environment. As a Training Manager for mid-sized firms employee turnover meant job security for my internal process trainers. In every role, senior mgmt & HR invariably pulled me into new hire interviews. They simply wanted my opinion as how trainable / malleable a prospective employee might be. Was tough when I young but easy to tell by my late 30s.
    These Apple employees need another perspective, few of the masses get any choice at all about showing up at their jobs. Everyone is replaceable.

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    July 16, 2021
  7. Tom Farris said:
    @Greg – As you know, this wouldn’t even be a footnote, if it weren’t Apple.

    6
    July 16, 2021
  8. Kirk DeBernardi said:
    The “Work From Home” matrix really got kicked into gear with COVID, no doubt.

    Its effectiveness is now in a state of reassessment pertinent to it’s overall effect on business going forward as things get back to some kind of “normal”.

    That this work-shift started as a forced issue and now seems to be morphing into a chosen one, I’m surprised that some companies prefer to keep it.

    Sure employees would rather not shave or put on makeup, get dressed and commute to work, etc. and would rather work in their bathrobes, eat at home, dilly-dally and not commute to work, etc. We are the creatures that we are.

    I just feel that stripping away that regular beat of human face-to-face connection, engagement and communication is ultimately a net loss and to endorse it as the new paradigm is a decision ultimately driven by a bean-counter mentality of cutting costs that’s typically blind to the humanness cost-benefit inherently instilled in just being “present”.

    We all know what Steve’s view on this was and he was pretty damn good at humanness.

    2
    July 16, 2021
  9. John Konopka said:
    First hit on a search for employee retention:
    https://www.dailypay.com/blog/employee-retention-rate
    “As mentioned earlier, 10% is a good figure to aim for as an average employee turnover rate – 90% is the average employee retention rate.”

    I heard a speaker from a high tech company state recently that turnover was about 8% last year and that 4% was close to an industry norm.

    I have worked from home for 20 years or so and have mixed feelings about it. I travel a lot to visit customers so WFH is practical and definitely has been good. Still, having also worked in the office I can see there are a lot of benefits to mixing it up with colleagues on a weekly basis. Every time I visit the office I find I’m catching up on lots of small changes that don’t show up in periodic reports from the company. Also, it is hard to bond and make friends over email.

    3
    July 16, 2021

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