Apple employees send a letter to Tim Cook, other executives pushing for better work from home options

Work forces are starting to find some semblance of normalcy in mid-2021, following more than a year of mostly working from home situations. But, while returning to work is in the cards for many employees, there are others who believe that staying home –especially in light of the current pandemic not going anywhere– is in their best interest.

Apple believes in the in-person experience. It’s part of the company’s culture. And so it’s no surprise that working from the office is in the cards. Back in June of this year, the company confirmed that it would be asking corporate employees to return to work for three days out of the work week beginning this September. They could work from home, or remotely in general, the rest of the week.

Apple believes in an in-person working experience. As Cook himself has said, it’s part of the company’s culture and an important element of Apple’s future moving forward. Still, a hybrid work model is important in these times, especially as the Delta variant of COVID-19 surges across the globe. Some people are still afraid to go back to in-person work. And Apple isn’t forcing employees to get vaccinated (simply encouraging them to do so), and isn’t requiring everyone to wear masks in the office, either.

Now, according to a repot from Recode, some employees are still trying to make change happen. The publication highlighted an internal letter that was sent to Tim Cook and other executives. This is in light of the corporate back-to-work mandate Apple spoke about earlier this year, along with the “hybrid flex” work program Apple is setting up for its Apple Store employees, too.

However, an internal survey distributed earlier this month indicated many employees are not thrilled with any of these plans. They say it’s not good enough, and that Apple should be working harder to work with employees and their wishes regarding remote work.

Now, this second letter. Some employees want to see Apple launch a program that would allow some employees, especially those who want to do it, to work from home for up to a year beginning in 2021. They desire a cost-of-living compensation adjustment if the plan is enacted, and that manager approval would be necessary for those employees to work remotely for five days out of the work week.

Here’s the letter in full:

Dear Tim, Deirdre, and Team,

Thank you for all the work you and the team do to keep Apple’s culture so rich, vibrant, and inclusive! We especially appreciate the People’s team’s efforts over the last few weeks to understand our personal situations. However, it has been disappointing to see these personal stories not acknowledged individually or by any change in policy. We continue to be concerned that this one-size-fits-all solution is causing many of our colleagues to question their future at Apple. Around 68% of the respondents to our informal survey somewhat or strongly agreed that the lack of location flexibility would likely cause them to leave Apple; that’s over 1100 members of our Apple family, and we care about every single one of them.

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. Furthermore, allowing some greater flexibility than the current 3/2 schedule would enable us to truly validate whether some people working remotely, not just everyone occasionally working from home, is compatible with Apple’s culture of collaboration.

We propose the following adaptations to the Flexible Work Arrangement (FWA) and Temporary Remote Work Arrangement (TRWA) programs to make them part of the Hybrid Working Pilot. These new arrangements would be limited to one year with no promise to be extended.

Local WFH Temporary Pilot Agreement:

This proposal is intended to accommodate employees who work better from home—or who do not feel comfortable in the office while the pandemic is still not under control—by allowing them to continue working from home unless the particular needs of their role require them to be in the office.

  • Required: Approval of direct manager.
  • Default work location is home, but the employee will still have an assigned desk in the office.
  • WFH location must be within commutable distance to the employer’s assigned office.
  • A fixed WFH/in-office schedule may be part of this arrangement at the manager’s discretion.

Remote WFH Temporary Pilot Agreement

This proposal is intended to accommodate employees whose living situations are not compatible, or have become incompatible, with commuting to an Apple office.

  • Required: Approval of department head.
  • Default work location is current permanent home address; employee will not have an assigned desk in the office.
  • Employee’s compensation may be adjusted based on location, the same as for permanent remote employees.

We believe that these two proposals are essential to making the Hybrid Working Pilot successful. Together, they ensure the Pilot encompasses the full range of office and non-office working arrangements, allow us to retain many of our colleagues, who have expressed the desire for location-flexibility in their current roles, and enable individuals and teams to respond more quickly to the changing regional conditions of COVID-19 without relying on previous company-wide guidance. We hope you agree that the risks of these adapted policies are minimal while their potential benefits are enormous and look forward to hearing your thoughts.


The Undersigned

There are thousands of employees within a dedicated Slack channel discussing Apple’s plans for remote work. Many of them continue to raise concerns over the company’s handling of the situation. These crop up in these petitions and letters. There were separate reports this week saying Apple has started cracking down on remote work requests already, and things will likely get worse as the year progresses.

It will be interesting to see if Apple changes any of its plans, programs, or flex options for its corporate and/or Apple Store employees, especially in light of a far more public approach to these letters and petitions.