Apple’s head of machine learning Ian Goodfellow has left the company because of its return policy. Goodfellow’s departure underscores tensions between the company and its staff as they adapt to new hybrid work models following the Covid-19 pandemic.

Apple wants staff to return to its headquarters in Cupertino, California, and other offices around the world – on a three-day basis. (Photo by Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images)

Goodfellow, a prominent machine learning specialist who joined Apple three years ago from Google, reportedly told staff in an email that his resignation was partly due to a return to personal work, saying: “I strongly believe there would be more flexibility is the best policy for my team. “Apple has ordered employees working from home to return to the office three specific days a week from the end of May.

Leaving Goodfellow may lead other employees to follow suit, with Apple employees writing an open letter to the company complaining about its hybrid work policy. That is likely to rethink Apple executives, an expert said Technical monitor.

How does Apple’s return to office policy compare to other major technology companies?

Apple’s policy coincides with that of the parent company, Google Alphabet, which asked employees to renovate their office three days a week, while Facebook’s parent company, Meta, also asked employees to return. Amazon, in contrast, applies a case-by-case approach to ongoing remote work requests. The social network Twitter said that all employees can work permanently from home if they prefer while The CEO of AirBnB said the office was a thing of the past.

“Apple had a homework policy that was good in the summer of 2021 when it was announced,” said Professor Nick Bloom, William D. Eberl, a professor of economics at Stanford University and co-founder of Work From Home Research. “By the summer of 2022, this policy has clearly become too restrictive compared to other technologies. A lot has changed in the last year with the increase in home work since Covid-19, but unfortunately not Apple. “

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Apple Home Policy: Does the staff want to return to the office?

In protest of the strict policy of returning to the office, a group of Apple employees formed a new group under the banner Apple Together, calling for the opportunity to work remotely full-time where possible.

“We don’t want everyone to be forced to work from home,” the group said in an open letter to Apple executives, citing three “working” days, often in the middle of the week, with an office day two days after home as an example of lack of flexibility.

“We ask you to decide for yourself, together with our teams and the direct manager, what kind of arrangement works best for each of us, be it in the office, work from home or a hybrid approach.” the letter said. “Stop treating us like students who need to be told when to be where and what kind of homework to do.

The group also alleges a lack of good faith on the part of Apple when it comes to meeting the commitment to approve full-time remote work on a case-by-case basis, arguing that there are several departments that have not approved year-round exceptions.

The social network of anonymous corporate employees Blind conducted a survey among Apple employees, finding that 56% of 652 employees surveyed (users register with the company’s email address, but remain anonymous publicly) are considering other options in response to office policy work . Most of the respondents worked mainly in engineering and production functions, Blind said.

One of the workers surveyed said: “Apple’s exhaustion has been great lately. I think more people than those who speak are against the RTO [return to office]. They just go out quietly and find better opportunities. “

“Apple will see exhaustion like no other in June. 60% of my team don’t even live near the office. They’re not coming back, “another anonymous Apple employee told Blind.

Apple is facing an additional problem with staff retention because, in addition to changing the way people work, the pandemic has made it easier for staff to change jobs, says Professor Bloom. “Interviewing for a new job while working from home is easy – a discreet video call,” he says. “Interviewing while working in the office can be difficult – a few hours away under some dubious excuse.”

Indeed, in his study, Professor Bloom found that of the 2,079 people surveyed, 46% found it easier to interview for another job while I work from homecompared to 23% who found it more difficult.

Will Apple change its office return policy?

The departure of Goodfellow from Apple’s special projects team could hamper its efforts in the field of artificial intelligence, especially if other members of his team join him as he leaves. He is known as the “father of shared hostile networks”, a technology used to teach AI, and is the co-author of an AI textbook used in more than 1,500 universities.

Apple has one of the strictest return on office policies of major technology companies, perhaps in part because it is investing about $ 5 billion in Apple Park, its headquarters in Cupertino, California. CEO Tim Cook is a strong supporter of personal work. “Despite everything we have managed to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that something significant has been missing since last year: each other,” Cook said last year. “Video conferencing has narrowed the gap between us, of course, but there are things we just can’t reproduce.

The company introduced a phased return of employees, starting one day a week in April, eventually increasing to three specific days a week, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, until May 23.

But Professor Bloom believes he will soon make some changes to this schedule. “I predict that Apple will start allowing work from home on Monday so as not to lose more employees,” he said. “Requiring a 3-2 hybrid will be too expensive, and Apple is a well-run company and will respond. Work from home is also getting better as maintenance technology improves. Apple knows and loves technology, so it would be natural for them. “

Ian Goodfellow’s Apple departure highlights tech’s hybrid working tensions

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