Apple workers launch petition over firm’s return-to-office stance. Source: The Guardian

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Apple workers launch petition over firm’s return-to-office stance

Group responds to CEO’s memo calling for ‘in-person collaboration’ at least three days a week

Apple campus in north-west Austin, Texas, USA

A group of employees under the name Apple Together have circulated a petition, saying greater working flexibility would promote diversity. Photograph: S Coleman/Zuma Press/Rex/Shutterstock

Kalyeena Makortoff

@kalyeenaMon 22 Aug 2022 08.39 BST Last modified on Mon 22 Aug 2022 09.44 BST

Apple employees have hit back at the tech company’s return-to-office orders, and launched a petition saying the firm risked stifling diversity and staff wellbeing by restricting their ability to work remotely.

The petition is in response to an all-employee memo from the Apple chief executive, Tim Cook, who last week said workers would have to come into the office for at least three days a week from September, including Tuesdays, Thursdays and a third day to be determined by individual teams.

  • The plan is looser than previous proposals that would have forced staff to return every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, with Cook saying it would “enhance” the company’s ability to work flexibly, “while preserving the in-person collaboration that is so essential to our culture”.

However, a group of workers who operate under the name Apple Together have circulated a petition pushing back against Cook’s orders, saying greater flexibility would promote diversity within the company.

“We believe that Apple should encourage, not prohibit, flexible work to build a more diverse and successful company where we can feel comfortable to ‘think different’ together,” the Apple petition said, according to the Financial Times. The petition added that the mandate failed to acknowledge that staff were “happier and more productive” with less traditional working arrangements.

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“Are you an office-based Apple employee? Are you less than thrilled with the RTO [return to office] mandate? Sign the petition, lets stand together,” the group said in a tweet linked to the petition on Monday.

Apple Together reportedly intends to collect signatures this week before verifying them and sending them to the iPhone makers’ executives.

While other tech companies such as Twitter and Facebook introduced policies at the start of the pandemic that allowed staff to permanently work from home, Apple has maintained its stance that it expected employees to return to in-person work long term.

At least one high-level employee has jumped ship as a result of Apple’s stance. Apple’s director of machine learning, Ian Goodfellow, told staff in May that he was moving to Google partly because of the more flexible working arrangements. “I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,” Goodfellow reportedly told employees.

Apple was contacted for comment.

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