Apple employees threaten to quit over remote work request denials

As the lockdowns and restrictions due to the response to COVID-19 recede, Apple wants its employees to return to work in person. However, some employees do not seem willing to return to the office, with some now threatening to leave the company over denials of requests for remote work by Apple management.

Apple Park in Cupertino, California
Apple Park in Cupertino, California

Last month, Apple had reopened all its stores from COVID closures and began to normalize store operations, dropping mask requirement for customers and employees in many parts of America. In eary June, Apple CEO Tim Cook said employees should begin returning to offices after the lengthly COVID-19 disruption in early September for at least three days a week.

Zoe Schiffer for 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.

In the June letter, employees said Apple’s policies had “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 part of Apple.”

MacDailyNews Take: Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out.

As we wrote at the end of last month:

Employees who don’t want to return to work in person should pound sand either of their own volition or via pink slip.

“The inclusivity that flexibility brings?” Bullshit nonsense.

Returning to offices in early September is already ridiculously late.

There are literally millions of qualified, talented, driven people who would gladly work five – gasp! – whole days a week in the office for Apple.

Get back to work or get lost.

Successful companies like Apple don’t run on layabouts who’ve already enjoyed a very lengthy year-plus extended vacation and who are now ruined.

If these employees don’t quickly wake and wise up, cut them loose, Apple. Swing the axe, don’t coddle them.

I do not adopt softness towards others because I want to make them better. — Steve Jobs

Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected. — Steve Jobs

“A” players attract “A” players. “B” players attract “C” players. — Steve Jobs

71 Comments

      1. We all really believe that the “Environment is the most serious threat to Humanity” requiring Trillions of dollars to be spent to reduce our carbon output, Right?

        Does this mean Tim Cook doesn’t believe that Carbon is an existential threat? Is he a “Climate change Denier” or does he just not care about the environment?

        I find it interesting that all the people who accuse others of being “Climate change deniers” really don’t believe it either.

        You are what you do.

        Everyone on this site that is FOR going back to work is a “climate change denier” and only think they believe Carbon is a threat. To believe Carbon is a threat to our planet AND be in favor of having people go back to work when it is not necessary, is delusional at best.

        I saw this behavior before. Last Thanksgiving, people would say “Oh my God COVID-19 is everywhere and is a REAL threat”, then they would shut off their TV’s, rush out to Walmart, and packed themselves into the store on Black Friday like a bunch of Sardines in a can.

        Then of course lecture others on the importance of staying home and wearing masks.

        I have no explanation for this condition.

        Remember in 2016 “every scientist agreed” that the world will end in 12 years? It’s 2021, We are down to 7 years. Do “all Scientists still agree” the world will end in 7 years? Was that real? Did all those who believe “Science is real” give up their retirement accounts, sell their homes, run up their credit cards, and travel the world to enjoy their last days on earth or did they check their credit scores and buy a new car?

        Do they only believe they believe? If so, what is the word for this mental condition? I don’t know.

        Not to make this Political, but I do only seem to see this confused behavior more on the left.

        People on the right, say “Corona is not a problem, I’m going shopping”. “The world won’t end in 7 more years, I’m saving for retirement”. etc.

        People on the right, know what they believe and act accordingly. People on the left either don’t really believe what they believe or they are confused.

        If you believe the world will end in 7 more years “because Science is real” and you haven’t sold your home and closed your retirement account, write back and let us all know why?

        If you believe Carbon is an existential threat and are all for going back to work, write back and say why? It confuses me for sure!

        For the record, I don’t believe the world will end in 7 more years, do you? Does anybody, here really believe it now or have we all turned into “Climate change deniers”? Do we not believe the “Science”?

        Does this mean lefties are waking up? Or will they continue to believe things they don’t really believe? I don’t know the answer to that.

        Write back and explain these contradictions. I’d love to hear!

        1. In 1989–32 years ago–a former research chemist warned the UN General Assembly that greenhouse gases were “changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways.

          “The result is that change in future is likely to be more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have known hitherto. It is comparable in its implications to the discovery of how to split the atom. Indeed, its results could be even more far-reaching.

          “It is no good squabbling over who is responsible or who should pay. We shall only succeed in dealing with the problems through a vast international, co-operative effort.”

          Who was this “leftie” environmental cultist?

          Margaret Thatcher

        2. Okay, I’m confused by your little diatribe here. Are you saying it’s the left that’s in favor of going back to the office? Because most people on the left (myself included) would be in favor of continuing remote work for many reasons – including the environmental ones.

          But if you’re saying that it’s the left that’s pushing people to return to the offices, if you could enlighten us as to where you get that from?

            1. Yes, Cook is a far LEFTIST GAY SJW, so?

              Unless your point during the meandering voluminous post is a Leftist boss in full command orders Leftist employees back to work at the office and stores, fine with me.

              If the snowflakes are protesting on the basis of climate change transport to work, while a novel idea, WEAK defense for keeping your Apple job or winning unemployment compensation case.

              Imagine Apple HR or an unemployment mediator listening to an employee pleading their case I’m killing the planet every time I drive to work. 🤣

              While back at home the same woke snowflakes are working remotely on Apple devices. The reality from a government website: “Fossil fuels are the largest sources of energy for electricity generation.” Not only in the USA, China is the global leader, where the majority of Apple products are MADE.

              Hmmmm, Cook’s touted green energy initiatives obviously don’t apply in China SAME as human rights. Can you say, hypocrite?

              Getting back to Apple employee snowflakes, does using electricity translate to killing the planet every time you turn your Apple devices on for remote work? I realize this requires critical thinking skills on your part, sorry for the inconvenience.

              BTW, climate change does exist and soon it will change AGAIN and rain in parched California…☔️

            2. Sorry, GeoB, but Apple’s green energy initiatives DO apply to China. The company and ten of its suppliers have invested over $300 million in its China Clean Energy fund that contributes at least 134 megawatts of renewable energy to the national electrical network.

              https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2019/09/apple-launched-china-clean-energy-fund-invests-in-three-wind-farms/

              The Apple zero-emissions policy applies to China, as it does to company and contractor operations everywhere else. Can you say, ignorant GeoB?

        3. I’m still failing to see your point in all of this – are you somehow saying that it’s better for the environment for employees to work in the office rather than work remotely? Because that doesn’t make sense.

    1. Sure. Let them. Apple will lose a lot of good talent, and employers who are much more amenable to remote work options will be very happy to gain Apple alumni talent. Only Apple and Apple’s customers stand to lose here.

    1. My wife works for a major retail chain with stores in all 50 states. They’ve closed their HQ altogether and all HQ staff is now working remotely.

      1. “My wife works for a major retail chain with stores in all 50 states.”

        Therefore what? Are you attempting to equate a “major retail chain” with Apple Inc.?

  1. This is not unique to Apple. For employers everywhere that implemented remote work during the pandemic, their employees are discovering that their jobs can very easily and effectively be done remotely, and it’s better for work/life balance. So when managers are insisting on people returning to their tiny little cubicles, it’s seen as just a muscle flexing measure, and these employees know, “Hey, if I can’t get a remote work arrangement here, I can totally get it somewhere else, and I’m totally willing to take advantage of that.”

    So you can complain about employees being “entitled” all you want, but in the end, they’re going to vote with their feet. And when they do, employers who aren’t willing to implement these remote work arrangements are going to face a reckoning that they’re unable to compete for talent against the employers who are.

    Incidentally, my job is in a company that started relying heavily on remote work even before the pandemic. And it’s a company that is studying this very issue of “return to the office” policies and how it’s impacting employee retention.

    1. For the vast majority of jobs there is no adequate substitute for face-to-face interactions. There just isn’t. Zoom, Skype, Teams, FaceTime, etc. are weak substitutes.

      If you were hired 18 months or more ago under a work-in-the-office condition, what gives you the right to say, “You know that temporary work from home accommodation you gave me due to the pandemic, I’m demanding that full time going forward now or I quit.” That just being self centered. Period.

      What makes the software code monkey think he has the right to demand more favorable conditions than the engineer who has been toiling in Apple’s hardware labs day in and day out for the last 18+ months? It’s unfounded and unwarranted arrogance is all.

      1. This is not China. Every worker in America DOES have a right to request better working conditions, just as every employer has a right to turn down those requests, and the employee whose request is rejected has a right to leave. That isn’t arrogance. It is how a free market in labor works.

        1. Request, yes. Demand, no.

          What gives that software code monkey the right to demand more favorable working conditions than the equally necessary engineer that MUST work in the laIf the person requests it, gets turned down, then they can either show up as required or quit. Period.b every day while still getting equalApple clearly cannot provide that engineer lab equipment in his/her home to do everything there.

          The China reference is 100% irrelevant. It’s what Apple needs to get out of its workers. As I said above, for the vast majority of jobs there is no 100% substitute for face-to-face interactions. Apple knows this. It’s just arrogant people that don’t want to admit it. benefits?

          1. A tech company can choose to have different working conditions for its hardware and software workers, just like a steel company can choose to provide a cooler ambient air temperature for its office workers than its blast furnace workers. Different jobs have different requirements.

            Again, this isn’t China, where employees and employers do not have the freedom to negotiate wages and hours. There is nothing in American law that requires life to be fair.

          2. Totally disagree with the notion of face-to-face interactions being essential. In fact, most of the meetings that teams have these days are timewasters, and the objectives can be met over email or communication tools like Slack. Not to mention that remote work actually saves companies on overhead that they don’t need to spend maintaining that office space since the workers are using their own residences that they themselves maintain. Not to mention you aren’t limited by geography when you open your company up to remote work. The benefits of remote work far outweigh the costs. Workers recognize this, which is why they will vote with their feet, and employers would be wise to recognize this rather than insist on shaming their employees back into office cubicles and thus risk losing great talent.

            1. The benefits or negatives of remote work are IRRELEVANT. Apple wants you to report to work in person, do so or LEAVE. What part do you and the rest of the Apple apologists do not UNDERSTAND?…

            2. GoeB: What I don’t understand is why you’re so vehemently defending this. Because this is what’s going to happen:

              Apple: Report back to the office or leave!
              Top talent: Okay. leaves
              Apple: Hey, why did our top talent leave!?

              What part of THAT do YOU not understand?

      2. Well, arrogance or not, it is a thing that’s happening, and employers can either adjust to those changes or bury their heads in the sand and lose talent.

        1. It is absolutely NOT the companies “burying their heads in the sand”. It is those companies recognizing that in person interactions are the best. Get a room full of the best thinkers and the energy of the interactions is significantly greater and the outcome is better than having all the same people on a conference call. That’s just fact. There is no denying it. Reality is what reality is.

          Anyone who claims that all but a small subset of jobs is just as good done remotely are just denying reality.

            1. “What does a company gain from having its help line employees sitting in a cubicle in Cupertino, rather than on the phone at home?”

              If you can’t figure that out, you are human-interaction-challenged.

            2. Re Boris: If you can’t figure that out, you are human-interaction-challenged.

              If you can’t articulate your own argument and decent to this, you are evidence-challenged.

            3. Ok, then explain it to me. How is the interaction with somebody on the telephone different based on whether they are in a cubicle or at home?

            4. Hey brainless still SUFFERING a reading comprehension problem. Shadowself spelled it out in precise detail. How effin’ dumb are you?…

            5. Hey, GoeB – TxUser specified it was the help line employees – their job is literally to be on the phone. Their job doesn’t involve in-person interaction no matter where they are.

              Sounds like you’re the one suffering from a reading comprehension problem. 😜

            6. “How is the interaction with somebody on the telephone different based on whether they are in a cubicle or at home?”

              TxUseless because you are LACK critical thinking skills I’ll be happy to explain it to you.

              Big difference. At home the kids need to be fed and the dog out for a walk. Not to mention TV and soulmate distractions. While working from home no managerial oversight for the most part.

              In the office you have camaraderie with fellow employees sitting next to you. If you have a difficult customer comrades and supervisor are immediately available not wasting time on back and forth e-mails and phone calls recorded.

              Main issue is OVERSIGHT. You are monitored by management working and not wasting time on domestic duties. Also immediately available for a quick conference team meeting should the need arise. You are part of the face to face interaction TEAM working together.

              Not a surprise you are clueless to the DIFFERENCE…

            7. GoeB, I’ll let TxUser speak for himself, but in my case, I understand the difference you’re pointing out, I just don’t buy it.

              Everything you point out is based on traditional notions of work and what work is expected to be, which many of us are now questioning. If you view work as being something you’re expected to spend an 8 hour uninterrupted block of time on and for whom managers are supposed to take copious personal control over, then yes, having that non-distracting office environment and managerial presence would seem to fit that.

              On the other hand, if work is viewed as the service you provide to an employer, as well as the quality of that service, then the amount of time spent on it becomes immaterial, and in some cases, productivity increases when managers loosen the reins.

              Now let me point to something else you brought up, which is these “distractions.” And I’m actually speaking from experience as I’m currently working for a company where everyone works remotely (technically, there is an office, but no one actually goes there anymore). I have two children, one of whom is both younger and more extroverted, and so she can be quite distracting if she were home all the time. My other son is older, more introverted, and more self-sufficient. But because I work from home, I can send my daughter to the Y to play with other kids while my son stays home and does his thing, whereas if I were required to go into the office, I’d have to send them both to the Y, to which my son would balk and complain that it’s just like being forced to go to school rather than getting to enjoy his summer off, and then I’d be distracted getting to the office over trying to coerce him into getting up, getting dressed, and getting in the car, and then not be able to work at my best because I’m having to come down off of that stress episode, whereas in the current scenario, I just have to take my daughter, come back, and get on the computer, and be in a better headspace to get my work done.

              And that managerial oversight you seem to think is only available in the office? I interact with my team leader quite frequently over Slack and Zoom, and it works out really well – even better because I can share my screen with him and show him what I’m working on, rather than him having to get up and come over to my desk and hunch over to see what it is.

              Of course, all of this discussion is academic, as I doubt my comments will convince you or anyone else who are digging in their heels on the notion that working in the office is somehow both productively and morally superior to remote work. What really matters, again, is that more and more workers, especially software developers and engineers, are coming down on the side of remote work being a net positive, rather than a net negative, and if managers are going to side against them on that, those developers will quit and go to companies who do agree with them on the remote working side. Remote work isn’t something that’s going to go away.

          1. Seems like those denying how well technology tools allow for remote work to be just as effective, if not more effective, not to mention providing better quality of life, are the ones denying reality – a reality COVID allowed most workers to realize.

  2. It’s not an either question. For some people and some roles and some teams, remote working can be just as if not more effective than in person work.
    I’ve never met some of our recent hires in person but have already struck up some great relationships as we’ve solved some huge problems together and look forward to meeting them when it’s safer to do so.
    In the meantime we banter and joke and spark ideas with each other in much the same way as with those team members who live in different cities and countries that we would seldom or never have met anyway.
    Years ago I ran a team of professionals producing incredibly creative and sophisticated industry solutions across 7 time zones and met most of them only a few times over several years. That was effectively remote working….

      1. Hardly a surprise that someone who favors authoritarian government also favors authoritarian work environments. Historically, Apple wanted its employees to be independent. Remember the pirate flag flown by the Mac development team? If you prefer a company where workers OBEY all the company RULES, so be it.

        1. If you believe Tim Cook favors authoritarian government and you’re going to rail against that, I’m surprised you’re not siding with the workers on this one.

  3. I’m pretty confident Apple knows what it needs from it’s employees.

    If they’ve noticed a difference in performance, why would they require them to return? Because it isn’t meeting the goals.

    All companies have their own work environment.
    Apple just wants to get back to theirs…

  4. Why does MDN and some commenters here assume that it is the employees that are being lazy? A company does not benefit from inflexible managers who can’t recognize that the assumptions about productivity that they have had for years might be wrong. “Three days a week”? Why? How could such a policy make equal sense for so many people doing so many different things? Managers who reflexively revert to the old ways are not going to take Apple to the future.

    Has Apple really had some kind of huge productivity drop in the last year? If that were true, then the employees would be happy to get back to getting things done more quickly and efficiently. Time you spend in the car, walking through hallways, or sitting in waiting rooms is NOT productive.

    1. Over the years I’ve followed MDN, on the occasions when they wade into politics, they seem to have no compunction about siding with right wing sentiments, including when it comes to portraying the working class as lazy, greedy, and any other number of moral ills, so this seems in line with that tendency. It’s unfortunate, really.

      1. Like the nice Ferengi said: If you need something, do everything you can to make that thing as cheap as possible.

        Need labor? Build a whole media dedicated to telling everyone how lazy and greedy ordinary people are, while idolizing the lives of the rich and famous. Deride anything ordinary people do to advance their position at the bargaining table. Billionaire CEOs are ordinary people like you, union leaders are evil space alien thugs. And they call it “commercial media” because that is where the money comes from.

  5. For those of you who still need more evidence that canceling remote work arrangements is a bad thing, remember years before COVID was even a twinkle in its lab researchers’ eyes, when Marissa Mayer canceled all remote working arrangements at Yahoo? Talked about how essential in-person interaction was for productivity?

    Where is Yahoo today?

    Yeah, that’s what I thought.

  6. At this point, this discussion in the comments has become purely academic, so let’s say this – if for some reason all the “return to the office” advocates are right, and there’s some particular reason why it’s more beneficial for Apple to insist its developers work in the office, then it’s likewise better that they have developers that agree with them on that point. So when those developers who have a strong enough self-awareness and self-concept to know that that doesn’t work for them, when they leave Apple and go to a position where they can work remotely, certainly they’ll be replaced by developers who are on board with working in the office (more extroverted, maybe more junior developers, but still…)

    But don’t think that those departing workers are somehow morally or professionally inferior to those that stay or those that replace them. This is going to be quite the common scenario in the coming months:

    Interviewer: So, you’re working at Apple (or Google, or Intel, or IBM), why are you looking for a new job?
    Candidate: During the pandemic, I was working remotely, and I found that arrangement worked out well, so now I’m looking for a job where I can continue that arrangement.
    Interviewer: smiling Yep, I hear you. We’re seeing that a lot.

    So the cultural shift is happening. And it’s workers becoming more self-aware of what works for them as well as their contribution to their employer, and having a strong enough sense of self-worth to advocate for it.

  7. Apple can make its own rules for employment, for whatever reason. If an employee doesn’t want to abide, he/she can leave. It’s is that simple.

      1. I will shut up when you coherently explain:

        First, why supporting the right of adult United States citizens to negotiate with their employer over working conditions and leave if they are not satisfied is not merely mistaken, but INDEFENSIBLE, and

        Second, how arguing for freedom of contract in a free market capitalist economy is leftist.

            1. He is never going to answer us, Eric. He supports the right of employers to institute a totalitarian environment where dissent is intolerable, just as he spent four years arguing for a Big Brother government with the same characteristics. Loyal employees, like “patriots,” are supposed to shut up and (as he puts it) OBEY, PERIOD!

              GeoB is at least consistent about that, although he seems a bit inconsistent in wavering between regarding Tim Cook as a “Gay Leftist SWJ” who is Steve Jobs’ worst mistake one minute, and the next minute regarding Tim Cook as an infallible fount of optimal labor policy whose judgment may not be questioned. There also seems to be an inconsistency between GeoB’s expressed concern for the freedom of Chinese workers and his dismissive attitude towards American workers.

              If I am understanding you, Eric, you aren’t saying that Apple should surrender on this issue, only that it should be willing to listen to its workers and consider their arguments on their merits, rather than simply asserting its final authority over the workplace. The last time I heard, there were 6000 signatures on the petition, hardly a fringe group. If Apple wants to risk losing that many trained employees, that is their right, but they should at least discuss it first.

              GeoB will never understand the idea of negotiating anything, because to him and his ilk, compromise is a dirty word. Just sitting down to talk with the other party, be they employees or members of a rival political party, constitutes surrender. Sadly, the men of his rigid mindset seem to be multiplying like flies.

            2. In other words, to GoeB (and to other right wingers), if a governmental entity so much as lifts a finger and does anything at all, they get accused of authoritarianism as if it’s a heinous existential evil. But if an employer does so, it should be perceived as an inalienable right of the employer to do so to which employees should just be expected to fall in line. And that’s somehow expected to not be seen as cognitive dissonance in any way, shape, or form. Got it.

            3. As for my own opinion of what Apple should do, I’m a firm advocate of the benefits of remote work, especially in the tech industry. Sure, there are benefits to the workers in that it grants greater flexibility, a better work/life balance, but it also creates benefits for the employer in the form of less overhead in the form of not needing to maintain office space, plus being open to remote collaboration broadens the pool of potential talent in that you may be able to attract workers who might not be willing to relocate or who may have legitimate family needs that make a remote working arrangement necessary or at least preferable.

              That being said, if Apple can show a specific rationale as to why being collocated in the office works specifically for their business model, if they can at least communicate that in a respectful manner and say, “Look, we hear you, we know you’d prefer to work remotely, but these are the benefits that being in the office provides,” I suspect they’ll still lose employees who have concluded that, after this experience, remote work works better for them, but at least then it will be a win-win where employers who work better from home will find jobs that suit them, while Apple would get new talent that prefers the office environment.

              This whole notion that a requirement to work in the office is necessary to micromanage them to ensure they keep in line is downright insulting, but it certainly fits in with the conservative fetish for establishing moral superiority over people they see as morally weaker than they are. That doesn’t mean we have to listen to them, though.

  8. Tangent here, but this reminds me of a MDN post a few years ago when it was reported that Apple was going to stop putting hard disks in the MacBook Pro and replace them all with SSDs. At the time the report stated that the largest SSD size available was going to be 512GB, which bothered me, since at the time, I had a MBP with a 750GB hard drive, and I didn’t want to lose a third of my internal storage space. I remember so many flame comments telling me I was thinking in the past and I needed to imagine the speed possibilities of using a SSD over a HD instead of worrying about disk size.

    Well, fortunately, when Apple actually made the announcement, they announced that they would offer a 1TB SSD option, which satisfied me. 🙂

    I suspect in the end, after all this wrangling, Apple will probably come to some sort of agreement to allow remote work in some instances which will satisfy their employee base, and this whole squabble in the comments section will become a distant memory.

    At least I hope that’s what happens. After all, I love Apple products, and I’d hate to see Apple go the way of Yahoo…

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