Apple employees want more remote-work flexibility post-COVID

In a letter to CEO Tim Cook, some workers express reservations about a "one-size-fits-all" requirement to work on site three days a week.

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The Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California.

Wish you were here. The Apple Park campus in Cupertino, California.

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A group of Apple workers has responded to CEO Tim Cook 's Wednesday announcement that employees must soon start working from the office at least three days a week. Their reply? Think different.

In an internal letter to Cook published Friday by The Verge, the employees say decisions on the frequency of remote work should be left up to individual teams and that there shouldn't be a "one-size-fits-all policy." They also say they've felt "actively ignored" on the issue during the past year and that some workers have jumped ship as a result.

A lack of internal messaging "acknowledging that there are directly contradictory feelings amongst us" in regard to remote work "feels dismissive and invalidating," the letter reads. "It feels like there is a disconnect between how the executive team thinks about remote / location-flexible work and the lived experiences of many of Apple's employees."

"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 a part of Apple," the letter says. "This is ... a decision many would prefer not to have to make."

Apple is well-known for thinking face-to-face encounters can foster business breakthroughs. The company's elaborate, doughnut-shaped main headquarters reflect co-founder Steve Jobs ' notion that well-designed office spaces bring about serendipitous interactions between workers, leading to the sort of casual conversations that spawn novel solutions. 

But the letter writers say the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that remote interactions can be every bit as effective as in-person ones.

"For many of us at Apple, we have succeeded not despite working from home, but in large part because of being able to work outside the office," the letter reads. "The last year has felt like we have truly been able to do the best work of our lives for the first time, unconstrained by the challenges that daily commutes to offices and in-person co-located offices themselves inevitably impose; all while still being able to take better care of ourselves and the people around us."

Apple is just one of the big tech companies that's faced with navigating work life post-COVID. Cook's plan appears to resemble one put forth in December by Google CEO Sundar Pichai. Pichai's plan outlined a hybrid work model, with employees typically coming into the office three days a week. In May, Pichai told employees in a memo that he expects 20% of the company to permanently work remotely.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said the social-networking giant will allow some employees to work from home permanently, and Twitter made a similar announcement.

Apple employees would also have the option of working entirely remotely for up to two weeks each year, but that arrangement would have to be approved by managers. 

The reply to Cook was written and edited by about 80 Apple employees, after getting its start in a Slack channel for advocates of remote work that has about 2,800 members, The Verge said. The company directly employs tens of thousands of workers.

Apple didn't respond to a request for comment on the letter.

CNET's Steven Musil contributed to this report.