Apple: Working remote, or remotely working?

a desk with a mouse and keyboard on it
I’m glad to see that Apple employees are speaking up and pushing on Apple to embrace a more remote-friendly environment.

Apple absolutely has a culture that has enabled them to create incredible products over the years, but being colocated to get work done isn’t one of those things.

Executives love coming back to the office because they spend their time in meetings most of the day and remote meetings kind of suck in some ways. When it comes to focused work, though, a sizeable chunk of Apple’s team can benefit immensely from the flexibility afforded by remote work. Running a remote company lets you have team members from everywhere. It makes possible a more accommodating workspace for a wide range of people, from parents to people who are neurodivergent and find an open office to be a torrent of stimuli.

It’s really frustrating to watch a bunch of Apple bloggers who have never worked at Apple maintain this “how dare they” attitude toward Apple employees, sometimes implying that these employees don’t get Apple culture if they’re asking for this.

I’ve reported dozens of bugs to Apple over the years and I run into dozens more that I couldn’t even report. A tiny fraction of them ever get fixed. Apple is one of the most valuable companies in the world, and they have more cash on hand than any other company in the world, and they can’t fix their bugs. Hiring and retaining talent is a huge challenge for Apple, and if employees are speaking up and giving Apple a clear way they can better retain talented people, Apple ought to be listening.

There’s a quote attributed to Steve Jobs: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” Now I know for a fact Steve didn’t live up to this himself (he kept engineers working over the holidays so he could demo custom wallpaper on the iPad), but it would be nice to see the Apple community at least aim to live up to that standard. There are smart people at Apple telling leadership that there is a better way to do things.

Remote work works. People are equally or more productive when remote. The best defense of staying colocated is usually the same type of fuzzy feel-good argument that brought us such hits as “open offices make us more productive because they create serendipity.” Executives love onsite work for the same reason they love the open office: they love that feeling of power of watching all the worker bees together in the same place working on something, and actually saying that out loud would sound callous, so they come up with other excuses as to why it’s better.

Remote work saved our asses when pandemic struck. It kept the economy from grinding to a halt while keeping millions safely in their homes. And not only did we get to enjoy the perk of “being able to keep your job in a pandemic,” we also got to experience the other advantages: losing the commute, ability to set up a private workspace (space at home permitting) and not being coupled to being in a certain city or location to get work done. We don’t need the threat of a deadly virus to keep reaping those benfits; people can do great work remotely when well-supported, and the fact that executives have been saying for years that it can’t be done only for us to have done it this past year shows that maybe we should be a little skeptical when these same executives tell us that we really need to get back into the office.

As for me, I was working remotely before the pandemic. I had to leave my last job because my boyfriend and I bought a house in another city and my company didn’t do remote work. And after doing it full time for awhile, I’ll be sticking with remote work for the foreseeable future.


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