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Apple employees reportedly push for more work-from-home options after company tightens grip

Apple executives are pushing employees to return to the office at least three days a week starting in September. Some don't want that.

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Apple's employees have taken the rare step of speaking to the press to air their grievances.

James Martin/CNET

The tech world is known as one of the most lucrative industries in the world. All five of the most highly valued companies in the world come from tech, and all but one are worth more than $1 trillion, give or take a few billion dollars depending on the day. A lot of that perceived value is based on Wall Street's belief in aggressive innovation that seeks out new ideas that spawn the next hit product.

But not all is rosy in tech land lately. Apple, as well as its peers such as Facebook and Google, are finding themselves battling employees as they discuss what work will look like as offices start to reopen for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tech companies, which are partly known for their luxurious offices and benefits like free food and nap pods, want employees back at their desks, at least part time. At Apple, the company is asking them to come in at least three days a week starting in September.

Apple employees this week reportedly began circulating a new internal petition, the second in two months, asking executives for more flexible working conditions, according to a report by Recode. Among the requests, the petition asks for local and remote "pilot arrangements" that would give employees the option to work remotely from their home or remotely in another area five days a week, with the approval of their manager. The pilot would be limited to one year, and with no promise to be extended.

In return, in some cases, the letter suggested a "cost-of-living compensation adjustment." The letter was reportedly posted Monday morning to an internal Apple employee Slack channel dedicated to discussing remote work. It has more than 6,000 members.

"We continue to be concerned that this one-size-fits-all solution is causing many of our colleagues to question their future at Apple," the letter said. "With COVID-19 numbers rising again around the world, vaccines proving less effective against the delta variant, and the long-term effects of infection not well understood, it is too early to force those with concerns to come back to the office."

Apple didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. Internally, the company has said it believes in-person collaboration is an essential part of its culture.

The pushback from Apple employees underscores how uncomfortable many of the tech industry's top companies are with remote work, despite having largely successful experiments with it for the past year. Before the companies announced policies about when and how they would transition back to the office, many staff members began pushing to make remote work a permanent option. Some employees have moved away from Silicon Valley, while others found they enjoyed spending more time with their children rather than enduring the San Francisco Bay Area's notoriously long commutes.

Apple's employees in particular said they found that 68% of respondents to an informal survey somewhat or strongly agreed "that the lack of location flexibility would likely cause them to leave Apple."

"We hope you agree that the risks of these adapted policies are minimal while their potential benefits are enormous," the Apple employees wrote.