Apple's misguided WFH policy risks losing the best and the brightest talent
You don't need to be following along with the ins and outs of Apple's human resources situation too closely to know that team members are less than thrilled with the idea of being told to work from the office at least three days per week. This after they've spent a year working from home five days a week. Apple's sticking to its guns, despite concerns from within that people might leave the company rather than come to the office. But the situation is worse than that. It might struggle to hire people to replace them, too.
Apple has long been one of the companies that likes to have people on-site. It built Apple Park for those people and it's quite the place to be. The fact people still seem to prefer to work from home speaks volumes, although it's always important to remember that Apple has people working all around the globe — not just at its spaceship-looking HQ. It's Apple Park that's causing most of Apple's office-based pushback, though.
The problems Apple faces are obvious, at least to most of us. The area Apple Park is in, and indeed the surrounding areas, are costly. It's that high cost of living that has caused some people to already suggest that they're struggling to meet the commitments they have — and that's on what is presumably a decent Apple salary. As one Twitter user also pointed out, forcing people to work at Apple Park, and live near it, isn't really helping its inclusivity claims if it means a ton of people simply can't afford to apply for jobs there.
Apple will point to the way it's always worked, saying that it needs people in offices and engineers at desks to do the work it does. And that used to be true, but not anymore. Apple has released multiple products over the last year, all while people worked from home. Were there problems? I'm absolutely sure there were, but I'm equally sure they were overcome. We wouldn't have had two WWDCs, Apple silicon, and all of the new hardware and software announces if they weren't. Apple can't say that working from home doesn't work anymore — it's proven that it can and indeed, does. This fall will see it release the best iPhone ever made, after all.
There is already so much competition for the best engineers that Apple can't afford to limit its recruiting pool in this way. Other tech companies are already offering fully remote work. If you're someone who wants to work from home, where will you go? Apple's plush offices are only a draw if you want to work in an office in the first place. Now that so many people have tasted remote work for the first time in their careers, how many does that cover?
This isn't to say that Apple is doomed, of course. It's still Apple and it'll still pull in some great people, whether engineers, writers, designers, or any other vocation you can think of. But will it have the pick of the bunch? Will it be able to cherry-pick the best of the best and the brightest of the bright? Possibly not and, realistically, that's a bad spot to be in when you're trying to change the world. Again.
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Oliver Haslam has written about Apple and the wider technology business for more than a decade with bylines on How-To Geek, PC Mag, iDownloadBlog, and many more. He has also been published in print for Macworld, including cover stories. At iMore, Oliver is involved in daily news coverage and, not being short of opinions, has been known to 'explain' those thoughts in more detail, too.
Having grown up using PCs and spending far too much money on graphics card and flashy RAM, Oliver switched to the Mac with a G5 iMac and hasn't looked back. Since then he's seen the growth of the smartphone world, backed by iPhone, and new product categories come and go. Current expertise includes iOS, macOS, streaming services, and pretty much anything that has a battery or plugs into a wall. Oliver also covers mobile gaming for iMore, with Apple Arcade a particular focus. He's been gaming since the Atari 2600 days and still struggles to comprehend the fact he can play console quality titles on his pocket computer.
But, the "Apple can do no wrong" cult has to throw a hissy fit, and accuse the author of an anti-Apple screed.
Most likely, there won't be a mass exodus of Apple employees, or Apple's doom, or anything like that. But if Apple keeps this hard line WFH policy, they are in fact making themselves less competitive in attracting and keeping top talent. Plain and simple.
After all, it's increasingly difficult to make a living in the Silicone Valley and San Francisco. Businesses and municipalities and school districts and utilities are having an extremely hard time hiring people, because they can't afford to pay people to a level where said people can afford to live there. It's a major problem. Who cares if Apple has this super cool spaceship campus? If you can't afford to buy a house or pay rent, or if there is a dearth of goods and services and good schools (because of aforementioned inability to hire due to costs), working at Apple, if forced to work there at least 3 days a week, becomes untenable for many people, regardless of salary or perks.
But go ahead Apple Cult, have your hissy fit about the article. ;)