A group of Apple employees are pushing back against their decision to get corporate employees back to the office – arguing that it would be to the detriment of colored people and those who are less physically fit.
The technology company told its employees they would be required to be at work one day a week from 11 April, then two days a week and three days a week after 28 May.
The Hybrid Working pilot scheme was first announced in June, but was postponed due to the emergence of new Covid variants.
CEO Tim Cook said the move would allow colleagues to ‘engage more fully’ with each other and that Apple was’ deeply committed to [them] support and flexibility ‘through the transition.
But a group of its employees, organized under the newly formed labor rights group Apple Together, have argued that the shift was not motivated by better communication, but the company’s fear of future work, fear of workers’ autonomy [and] fear of losing control ‘.
In an open letter to Mr Cook, they acknowledged the benefits of face-to-face collaboration, but it was not something that needed to happen on a monthly basis, at least not a weekly basis, and described the Hybrid Working pilot scheme as’ one of The most inefficient ways of enabling everyone to be in one room ‘.
The employees claimed that the ‘serendipity’ that comes from bumping into colleagues’ in the office that the CEO was talking about was redundant as the company had 37 offices in the US alone before it was removed during the Covid pandemic.
‘We are not all in one place. We not only have one office, we have many. And often our functional organizations have their own office buildings where employees from other organizations can not work, “the letter read.
The group of employees said the new requirement would change the make-up staff, make the company less inclusive and put them at a certain age, gender and race at a disadvantage.
“It will make Apple younger, whiter, more male-dominated, more neuronormative, more able-bodied, in short, it will lead to privileges that determine who can work for Apple, not who fits best,” the letter continued.
‘Privileges like “being born in the right place so you do not have to move”, or “being young enough to start a new life in a new city / country” or “having a stay-at-home spouse who will move with you “.
“Apple will probably always find people willing to work here, but our current policies, which require everyone to move to the office their team happens to be based on, and to be in the office at least three fixed days a week, will change the composition of our workforce. ‘
Apple Together said staff creativity and work for many depend on having ‘time for deep reflection’, something they claim to be in an office – especially the company’s newer open workspaces – does not offer.
“Office-bound work is a technology from the last century, from the era before ubiquitous video-calling internet, and everyone was on the same internal chat application,” it wrote.
‘But the future is about connecting, when it makes sense, with people who have relevant input, no matter where they are based.’
The plans to have business staff back in the office three days a week offer ‘almost no flexibility at all’, especially due to the commute many have to take to get into the office, which is a ‘big waste of time as well as mentally and physical resources’, the group said.
“We can not believe that we need to clarify this, but commuting to the office, without an actual need to be there, is a huge waste of time as well as both mental and physical resources,” it wrote.
‘Many of us spend several hours every day commuting to and from the office, only to be in an environment where we can do our job less well or still be on video calls because we have to work with a colleague in an office on the other side of the city, the country or the planet. ‘
Although Apple Together did not ask for everyone to be forced to work from home, it wanted staff to be able to determine their work schedule even with teams and managers.
It added: ‘Now we ask you, the management team, to also show some flexibility and let go of the rigid policies of the Hybrid Working pilot. Do not try to control how often you can see us in the office. ‘
The irony of Apple pushing its products to customers as good for telecommuting while not allowing its own employees was not lost, Apple Together said.
‘How can we expect our customers to take it seriously? How can we understand what remote work problems need to be solved in our products if we do not live it? ‘ its letter read.
‘How can we expect to convince the best people to come and work with us if we reject someone who needs the slightest bit of flexibility? How can we expect them to do their best work but not trust that they know how to do it? ‘
Apple Together was formed in August by two now-employed engineers Cher Scarlett and Janneke Parish, who urge staff to come forward with stories of racism, sexism or discrimination in the workplace.
Before the letter was drafted, staff had reportedly tried to raise concerns about the new working arrangements within Apple’s internal channels “in vain”.
“There’s such a big disconnect between executive management and individuals,” an Apple Together member told CNN Business, adding, “the further you get up the chain, the more sympathy erodes.”
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