If the pandemic taught us one thing it’s that working from home on your sofa in your pyjamas is entirely possible. While some industries rely on face-to-face contact, the majority of labour can be done over Zoom and Microsoft Teams—we simply don’t need to be in the office to do our work.
Which is why Apple employees were outraged this week to read the business’ return-to-office orders. In an all-employee memo, Apple’s chief executive, Tim Cook, told his staff that all employees would have to come into the office at least three times a week from September, including Tuesdays and Thursdays.
In retaliation, a group of staff called Apple Together who are unhappy with the new arrangement have started a petition: ‘We believe that Apple should encourage, not prohibit, flexible work to build a more diverse and successful company where we can feel comfortable to “think different” together,’ it read, according to the Financial Times, adding that the new rules were ignoring the fact staff were ‘happier and more productive’ with more flexible working arrangements.
Studies have found that staff with more freedom at work tend to be healthier, happier and more productive in their role. According to research from the University of Stanford, staff who work from their house accomplish more of a ‘true’ shift each day and don’t use time commuting, leaving the office for breaks, being made late or getting ready.
The study also found that at-home employees take shorter breaks and have fewer sick days - and they save money. According to a study by Capital One UK, returning to the office after remote working cost staff £325 each just for the first month. Staff spend £55 a month on fuel to get into the office, or £54 a month on public transport, and another £54 a month on office-wear. After that comes the price of personal care, food, coffee and drinks, plus parking, bringing the total sum to £325.
But when working from home, staff reduced carbon emissions from no commuting and the company studied saved $2,000 per employee on office space rent—so, it’s good for big businesses as well as employees.
Additionally, working from home is great for our wellbeing, with many people now using the time previously spent commuting to exercise. And maintaining a work-life balance is easier because you can do simple tasks like putting a wash on or cleaning the dishes in between office work. Essentially, WFH makes modern life more manageable and there's no need to take that away.
So, why are companies still trying to dictate which days their staff come into the office? Face to face time is important for collaborative work and to diminish any risk of employees feeling isolated. But any more than a couple of days is about one thing: control. It’s easier to know what your work force are doing when you can see them.
But Apple may want to rethink their staff policies if they want to keep hold of their teams. According to reports, one high-level employee has already quit because of the three days in the office rule. Meanwhile, Apple’s director of machine learning told staff last year he was leaving for Google for more flexible arrangements, saying: ‘I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team.’
From the great resignation to quiet quitting, post-pandemic workers know how they want to work and aren’t afraid to go elsewhere until they find a flexible working structure that suits them. In 2022, hustle culture is dead, it’s all about making work work for you and any business that doesn’t understand that may find themselves short staffed.