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Apple has a new work-from-home policy, but it’s still not what employees want

Enlarge / Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Chris Foresman

Few large companies have had a more contentious internal argument over remote work amid the pandemic than Apple, but it is moving ahead with bringing many employees back into physical offices starting in February.

As previously reported by CNBC, Apple CEO Tim Cook, in an email to employees, announced both a new return-to-office date and a revised work-from-home policy for the people who make iPhones, macOS, and many other products.

Cook described the return to the office as a “hybrid work pilot,” with multiple phases and different rules depending on the nature of each employee’s work.

Starting on February 1, most employees will be required to return to the office for one or two days a week. But in March, the requirement will be three days a week.

All that being said, the new arrangement will also vary by team. Some teams that have “a greater need to work in person” will be required to come in four or five days a week—presumably the hardware teams and a few others, but we don’t know for sure.

This summer, Apple set plans to return employees to the office in September, but as we reported previously, employees weren’t happy about it and began to organize a campaign to prevent it. Apple’s leadership ultimately shifted the date to January, so this week’s announcement about February means an additional delay.

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To address employees’ requests for more flexibility, Cook told Apple employees they will now be able to work fully remotely up to four weeks each year. Here’s an excerpt from Cook’s email on that subject:

We are committed to giving you more flexibility as we move forward. In addition to the option of working remotely twice a week on Wednesday and Friday, we announced this summer that team members would be able to work remotely for up to two weeks per year with a manager’s approval. I’m pleased to share that we’re increasing the amount of time you can work remotely to a total of four weeks per year. This provides more opportunity to travel, be closer to your loved ones, or simply shake up your routines.

Before the pandemic, Apple was less remote-friendly than many other Silicon Valley tech companies, but nearly its entire workforce was mostly or fully remote through much of the pandemic.

However, some other tech companies like Twitter have announced much more flexible long-term work-from-home policies in the wake of their learnings from the pandemic. What Cook described in the leaked email is much more conservative than what some tech workers are getting at those other workplaces.

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