What HR can do about Apple's remote work conflict and what it implies for the future of work


My Pham

Marketing & Communication Executive

In this article...

    The comfort and convenience that remote work has provided have become second nature to many employees. Employees are already fighting back as many businesses seek for a return to in-office work.

    Is Apple willing to take the risk of employees unionizing in order to get back to office? Many perceive the campaign for flexible work by Apple employees as the beginnings of a union.

    Apple's drive to resume employment

    Apple CEO Tim Cook gave his team till September 5 to return to the office on a hybrid schedule, with at least 3 days of in-person work each week and the remaining 2 days being deemed "flexible" days, in an effort to bring workers back in the office.

    However, resistance among Apple staff to the company's return-to-office strategy is nothing new. Since June 2021, Apple has been attempting to establish a hybrid timetable. In earlier incarnations of the hybrid schedule, Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays were mandatory workdays for all employees. Employees will now be able to select the days they come into the workplace under Apple's new scheme.

    Employees have already voiced their displeasure with Apple's return-to-work policy, with 76% of respondents to a survey done by anonymous social media site Blind expressing their displeasure with the policy.

    Cook claimed in an internal memo that the company was "excited to move forward with the pilot" and that "we 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," but it seems Apple employees may not feel the same way.

    The decisive moment

    A petition started by Apple employees recently went around asking Cook to make "location flexible work" a permanent feature. The petition claimed that all Apple employees, regardless of where they worked, had performed "amazing work" throughout the pandemic. It was distributed by a group of employees known as "AppleTogether." On August 29, there were just under a thousand Apple employees who had signed the petition.

    AppleTogether stated in a letter to management, "Stop treating us like school students who need to be told when to be where and what homework to do.

    AppleTogether argued that workers are more productive and happy without a formal workplace in response to the mixed schedule.

    The petition states, "The one thing we all have is a desire to perform the finest job of our life for a firm whose official position is to do what's right rather than what's easy." The petition asks for:

    Staff may discuss the ideal flexible work arrangements for both Apple and themselves by working directly with their immediate managers at Apple.

    There shouldn't be any complicated procedures, higher-level permissions, or revealing private information necessary for these employment arrangements.

    Additionally, there are rumors that Apple employees have a Slack channel named "Remote Work Advocacy."

    As Apple workers band together and protest a return-to-work schedule, HR may get perplexed about how to strike a compromise between CEOs who want in-office work and staff members who prefer flexibility.

    Notes for HR
    Although the concept of employees banding together may be unsettling, there are proactive measures you can take to ensure that staff members and supervisors feel supported and heard before things get out of hand.

    Make a compromise

    As more workers realize the advantages of working remotely, the power dynamic is changing. Helping managers and staff members who disagree on work schedules and priorities to compromise and find common ground is vital.

    See whether there is any common ground that can bring employees and executives together, as well as any concessions that can help them reach a shared objective, before high-level executives make company-wide choices.

    Be ready for the repercussions

    Open letters, Slack channels, petitions... When an unpopular request is made, employees can band together and organize within a firm, as demonstrated by AppleTogether, and employers must be prepared for the change in power dynamics.

    Many employees aren't willing to give up specific allowances that were provided during COVID-19 since they've seen their advantages. You might want to question the executives if the potential implications of this controversial policy are worth it.

    Alternative ways to participate

    To address "the big disconnect," several businesses are promoting a return to in-office work. Bringing your angry staff back to work, though, might not be the solution you're hoping for.

    Find other approaches to engaging your staff instead, always keeping in mind what is most important to them. Innovative employee engagement strategies, such as virtual happy hours and team-building, can assist in re-engaging staff while also granting them the flexibility and autonomy they long for.

    Support executives

    In addition to assisting workers, managers should also get assistance as they attempt to negotiate a return-to-work or long-term remote work plan. Inform management of any potential pushback if you have a good feel for the mood of the workforce and work with them to find a solution.

    If potential issues are addressed before employees have to voice them, speaking up for employees while talking to management can help avoid resistance.

    Source: hrmorning.com