You can’t blame him for wanting staff to come into the office, as Apple has some magnificent and costly corporate accommodations.
Cook is starting to seem a little more open-minded. In a recent conversation during the virtual Atlantic Festival, the chief executive said he’s “been impressed by employees’ ability to operate remotely and predicted that some new work habits will remain after the pandemic.” He commented on the abilities of his team to create and build new Apple Watches and iPads, while working remotely and said, “[The company won’t likely] return to the way we were because we’ve found that there are some things that actually work really well virtually.” Only about 10% to 15% of Apple employees have already returned to the office.
Cook hasn’t fully embraced the working-from-home trend and has his doubts saying, “[It’s] not like being together physically.” This can result in a loss of creativity and the absence of serendipitous meetings and conversations. Even with his reticence, Cook previously announced that employees could work remotely through 2021. Cook said, “To go beyond that, it would depend on the success with a vaccine, success with therapeutics [and other factors].”
He added that Apple’s game plan for reopening its corporate offices will be based on the way the company manages its retail stores. The openings and closings were like an “accordion” that contracted and expanded when necessary to do so, based upon the information at the time. His comments are in line with his calm and thoughtful demeanor, which is ironically the opposite of founder Steve Jobs’ enthusiastic and excitable approach to business.
At first blush, it may seem that Cook is being indecisive. Conducting extensive research into the remote-work trend indicates that many CEOs are following the same path as Cook. They recognize that the science behind Covid-19 and previously held beliefs are ever-changing. Therefore, it’s not easy to make one edict that will stand the test of time.
Google, Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, JPMorgan and others have all weighed in recently with their thoughts. The consensus among top CEOs seems to be a blended, flexible and hybrid approach to work.
Those folks who have health concerns or are anxious about returning to work may be allowed to continue staying at home. Those who must be in the office—by the nature of the job—will return and so will people who desire the social interactions and benefits associated with being around others.
To ensure health and safety, shifts may be scheduled. The traditional nine-to-five workday may be replaced by early morning and later-in-the-day work shifts. Employees could be asked to work three days in the office and two at home.
Although some companies, like JPMorgan and Netflix, clearly want people at the office, they’re being reasonable and keeping all options open. We’re currently in unprecedented times, which requires companies to be fluid and flexible when dealing with the unpredictable nature of the outbreak and protecting their workers.
The comments contrast with the views of other executives, such as Netflix’s Reed Hastings, who recently called remote work “a pure negative” and JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon, who warned of lasting damage if workers don’t get back to the office soon.