- Apple is reportedly asking some employees to return to work throughout May and early June, signaling a departure from the reopening strategies of other major tech firms.
- The move illustrates how critical hardware is to Apple’s business and how its culture of secrecy means it operates differently than other Silicon Valley companies.
- Other tech firms, like Facebook and Google, are allowing employees to work remotely over the coming months. Twitter and Square have allowed remote work permanently.
- Are you an Apple employee with insight to share? If so, we want to hear from you. Contact this reporter at email@example.com or through encrypted mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a direct message on Twitter to @LisaEadicicco.
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Apple has reportedly asked some employees to return to the office over the coming weeks in what is likely an effort to resume regular work on critical and confidential products.
The company’s push to get its global offices up and running as soon as possible comes even as many other offices plan to stay closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. It’s also in stark contrast to competitors like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook that plan to settle into long-term remote work for the months to come.
The company has famously maintained a distinct culture of secrecy that has defined its working conditions as different from those of other Silicon Valley giants — and other large corporations period. That’s seemingly evident in its office reopening strategy as Bloomberg has reported that Apple has already begun its first phase of bringing employees back to work in some regions.
That plan is expected to continue through late May and early June to the company’s global offices, the report said. Even more employees are expected to return in July during Apple’s reported second phase.
It’s uncertain whether returning to work is mandatory for the workers included in phase one, and it’s also unclear which specific teams have been asked to return. Employees will either be asked to report to the office regularly or only in certain periods, according to Bloomberg.
The first phase will include employees whose jobs are more challenging to execute from home. The report also says that work on upcoming Apple hardware projects, like the virtual- and augmented-reality glasses the company is reportedly developing, has been scaled back while employees have been working remotely.
Apple did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
The company’s move to get corporate employees back to the office as quickly as possible during a pandemic appears to be a departure from the approach taken by other technology companies. Amazon has told employees that those who can work from home can continue to do so until October 2, according to Reuters. Microsoft, which like Amazon, Apple, and other tech companies has been remote since March, also said that most workers can continue doing their jobs from home through October.
Facebook’s offices are expected to reopen in July, but the social-media giant said it would allow most employees to work from home for the rest of the year. Google, similarly, has told employees that they would likely be working from home for the rest of the year, although those who need to return to the office would be able to do so in June or July.
In what may be the most extreme remote-work policy change to come from a major tech company so far, Twitter is allowing employees to work from home permanently. Payments company Square, which Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also leads, is allowing workers to permanently work remotely, too.
But unlike many of these companies, Apple’s business model is largely hardware-centric. The iPhone still generates more revenue than any other Apple product, and its wearables division has been booming in recent years.
Working on new hardware remotely is likely proving challenging, especially for a company that famously prioritizes secrecy. Doors on campus have blacked-out windows to preserve privacy, and staff are usually allowed to take home products only if they receive permission from their division’s vice president, according to Bloomberg. Employees are also given access to only certain doors with their ID badges depending on which projects they’ve been informed of, a former Apple employee wrote for Vox in 2017.
But as the company has been forced to move to work-from-home arrangements, some engineers have reportedly been allowed to take home hardware products so that they can continue working. Certain employees considered business critical, like data-center engineers and some hardware testers, have also been allowed to work in the office as other employees stay remote.
There are still many lingering questions about what returning to work will look like. Even plans that are being set in place by companies like Apple could change depending on how the situation evolves given the coronavirus’ unpredictable nature.
What Apple’s reported decision tells us so far, though, is that it sees its work as very much tied to an in-office culture, even as other tech firms are embracing remote-work lifestyles. What Apple plans to do to ensure employee health and public safety as consequence of this decision remains to be seen.
Are you an Apple employee with insight to share? If so, we want to hear from you. Contact this reporter at email@example.com or through encrypted mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or send a direct message on Twitter to @LisaEadicicco.