Apple Finally Starts Hybrid Work Pilot, A Year After Announcing it

Apple now expects Bay Area employees to be in work on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with an additional day up to teams to decide.
Aaron Drapkin

Apple CEO Tim Cook has confirmed the ‘true start’ of Apple’s hybrid work model will take place in early September — a year after the policy was first announced.

The new policy will see Apple employees return to the office three days a week, instead of two, as part of the company's ongoing commitment to prioritizing in-person work.

While web conferencing made working from home manageable for most companies, the tech giant’s desire to get employees back into the office is understandable, given the company's main focus is hardware.

Apple’s ability to influence the tech sector with policies like these should not be underestimated, although its big tech counterparts aren’t all in agreement on the best way forward.

Apple’s “True Start” to Hybrid Work

According to Bloomberg, Apple will require employees in the Bay Area to be back in the office from September 5 — which is less than three weeks away.

The plan was originally scheduled to kick off back in June 2021, but successive Covid spikes and fears around potential lockdowns led to the policy being postponed.

“Teams participating in the pilot will come to the office three days each week with Tuesday and Thursday as set days across the company, but now the third day you come in will be decided by your teams” reads a company memo penned by Apple’s Tim Cook.

In the same message, the CEO also confirmed that some employees “will also have the option to work remotely for up to four weeks a year” and also urged employees to get vaccinated.

Since the summer, Apple employees have been coming into the office two days a week, and working remotely for the remainder of the time. But, with Covid cases significantly subsiding, the company has decided it’s time to make the switch to three.

“After years in limbo (and a couple of false starts) it’s really happening” confirmed head of Software Craig Federighi in a separate letter. “the week of September 5th marks the true start of our hybrid work pilot in the Santa Clary Valley”.

Will the Rest of Big Tech Follow Suit?

Most Big Tech companies have already kicked off their return-to-office plans. Meta, who had previously instigated a “work from anywhere” policy, started their return to in-person work in late March.

However, Meta’s top employees have embraced hybrid work like no other. Since 2020, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has worked from Hawaii and other homes away from the Bay Area.

Bloomberg reports that Chief Marketing Office Alex Schultz is moving to the United Kingdom, whilst Guy Rosen, Vice President of Integrity, is bound for Israel. Meta’s Head of Product Development, Naomi Gleit, has already relocated to New York, according to some sources.

Microsoft also started calling employees back into the office in March, and anyone that wants to work remotely for more than half of their working week has to seek approval from their manager.

Google, on the other hand, started its own three-days-in policy on April 4, 2022.

Reports suggest it was anything but smooth, with hour-long traffic backups instigated by roadworks at the Mountain View campus, whilst employees in other locations found themselves deskless upon return.

While the company did give employees the option to request to stay remote last year,  reports suggest they’re now taking much the same approach as Apple. This makes sense, considering the money it spent on office space.

Other tech companies like Twitter have taken a different approach, allowing employees to work remotely for an indefinite period of time, as have companies like Slack.

Team Days – a Post-Covid Phenomenon?

One aspect of Apple’s pilot is “Team days”, where an entire team will be required to be in the office on set days — Tuesdays and Thursdays — the third day will be determined by managers.

For many companies, this will be an entirely new concept, considering that it was the norm for everyone to be in the office, every day, until Covid struck, but for some, like Meta, it's already the new normal.

Team days are crucial to a successful hybrid working policy there’s little point coming into the office if the employees you need to be collaborate with on projects are only contactable via video conferencing software.

Although managers are likely to have the final say, ensuring team members are involved in the decision-making process is really important if you want to make it stick, and avoid chopping and changing from week to week.

Navigating a return-to-office policy is anything but easy – but giving everyone in your business an opportunity to have their say is the best way forward.

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Aaron Drapkin is a Senior Writer at Tech.co. He has been researching and writing about technology, politics, and society in print and online publications since graduating with a Philosophy degree from the University of Bristol three years ago. As a writer, Aaron takes a special interest in VPNs and project management software. He has been quoted in the Daily Mirror, Daily Express, The Daily Mail, Computer Weekly, and the Silicon Republic speaking on various privacy and cybersecurity issues, and has articles published in Wired, Vice, Metro, The Week, and Politics.co.uk covering a wide range of topics.

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