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Apple tells staff to come into the office for at least three days a week

Apple tells staff to come into the office for at least three days a week

Memo from boss Tim Cook backs down from earlier attempt to get all employees in on same three fixed days

Apple has told its employees they must come in to the office for at least three days a week from next month, in an effort to restore “in-person collaboration”.

In a memo to all employees, Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said the policy would require all staff to return to the office on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as a third day that would vary team by team.

“We are excited to move forward with the pilot and believe that this revised framework will enhance our ability to work flexibly, while preserving the in-person collaboration that is so essential to our culture,” Cook said in the memo.

The official plan, emphasised as just a pilot in Cook’s letter, is already a step back from an earlier proposal for all employees to come in on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday every week.

The shift to a flexible day in addition to the two midweek days will allow some employees to continue to have four unbroken days at home each week.

Apple had long been an outlier among its peers on the question of remote working. While tech companies including Twitter and Facebook implemented policies at the start of the Covid pandemic that allowed employees to opt for permanent home working, Apple has maintained throughout that its long-term plan is for all employees to return to in-person work.

In June 2021, when Apple first proposed a return to the office for three days a week, Cook told employees that “for all that we’ve been able to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: each other. Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.”

The company’s hardline stance on remote work has cost it already. In May, Ian Goodfellow, Apple’s director of machine learning, quit barely two years after being poached from Google to rejuvenate its virtual assistant Siri and the company’s other AI projects.

Goodfellow explicitly cited the return-to-work policy as the reason for his departure, telling staff: “I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,” according to the Verge’s Zoë Schiffer. Goodfellow rejoined Google, working for the company’s Deepmind subsidiary.

Apple’s stance is still not quite as strict as that taken by the car manufacturer Tesla. In a memo sent in early June, Elon Musk told employees to return to the office “for a minimum (and I mean minimum) of 40 hours per week” or quit the company.

Employees were entitled to work remotely in addition to that time in the office, he said, but if they thought remote work was sufficient, “they should pretend to work somewhere else”.

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