“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” — Steve Jobs
From “Thoughts on Office-bound Work” an open letter to Tim Cook signed (to date) by 1,445 current and former employees:
In your first email titled “Returning to our Offices”, you talk about “the serendipity that comes from bumping into colleagues” when everyone is in the same place. Except we are not all in one place. We don’t have just one office, we have many. And often, our functional organizations have their own office buildings, in which employees from other orgs cannot work. This siloed structure is part of our culture. It doesn’t take luck to overcome the communication silos and make cross-functional connections that are vital for Apple to function, it takes intentionality. We need to be able to reach out to each other intentionally, and have the chance to do so.
Slack has made this much easier over the last two years. Yet, you choose to keep us all in separate siloed Slack workspaces and try to prevent us from talking to each other, so software engineers don’t accidentally talk to AppleCare employees, and retail staff don’t accidentally meet hardware engineers. Over the last year, you have even made it impossible to create shared community spaces where serendipity could have happened, online and remotely. Be this in employee clubs for which there is a “temporary hold on approving any new clubs” or shared public Slack channels, which now need director support and can only be about work in a very strict sense…
In the original “Returning to our offices” email, Tim said “we’d make sure Apple delivered on its promises to its customers regardless of the circumstances”. It’s true, we delivered on our promises and continue to do so. We were incredibly flexible and resilient and found new ways to do our work, despite not being able to go to an office in many cases.
Now we ask you, the executive team, to show some flexibility as well and let go of the rigid policies of the Hybrid Working Pilot. Stop trying to control how often you can see us in the office. Trust us, we know how each of our small contributions helps Apple succeed and what’s required to do so. Our direct managers trust us and in many cases would happily let us work in a more flexible setup. And why wouldn’t they, we’ve successfully done so for the last two years. Why don’t you?
Or as Steve said: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Here we are, the smart people that you hired, and we are telling you what to do: Please get out of our way, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, let us decide how we work best, and let us do the best work of our lives.
My take: Tough call. I’ve been the manager of an in-house staff and I’ve worked remotely. I could argue this round or flat.