Tim Cook, CEO of Apple and Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan are rightly two of the most respected chief executives of two of our smartest companies. They are both so smart that they each announced their return-to-work policy for all their employees. Tim Cook announced that all his employees will return to work at their campus three days a week. Jamie Dimon announced that all his employees will return to their offices full-time.
When I was growing up one of the most popular TV shows was Father Knows Best. It was filmed in black and white. Mr. Anderson (Robert Young) arrived home from work every day and was met by his beautiful wife (Jane Wyatt) always wearing a dress covered by an apron to announce that dinner was ready. Of course, there was always a minor drama as one of the children had created some mess, but don’t worry…. Father always knew best.
The employees of Apple have written to Tim Cook to inform him that we are no longer filming in black and white. The social experiment forced by Covid19 have proven that the conformity of workplace routine are now filmed in Technicolor. Every employee, every team, every department in every company is different from the next and its work practice, remote, hybrid, and flexible, must be designed by the employees in that area. This is the purpose of my new course on Managing the Post-Covid Hybrid Work System. It is about flexible design, self-management, and employee responsibility.
Please read this article about the Apple decision and the employee response in Quartz. It perfectly describes why the CEO, even the smartest of them, should not be telling all the employees what their work system will look like in the future. Father doesn’t know best!
The letter from employees to Tim Cook was written by more than 80 collaborating employees. A few quotes from the letter are instructive:
“For many of us at Apple, we have succeeded not despite working from home, but in large part because of being able to work outside the office,” the letter stated. “The last year has felt like we have truly been able to do the best work of our lives for the first time, unconstrained by the challenges that daily commutes to offices and in-person co-located offices themselves inevitably impose; all while still being able to take better care of ourselves and the people around us.”
“Over the last year we often felt not just unheard, but at times actively ignored. Messages like, “we know many of you are eager to reconnect in person with your colleagues back in the office,” with no messaging acknowledging that there are directly contradictory feelings amongst us feels dismissive and invalidating.
“We are living proof that there is no one-size-fits-all policy for people. For Inclusion and Diversity to work, we have to recognize how different we all are, and with those differences, come different needs and different ways to thrive. We feel that Apple has both the responsibility to recognize these differences, as well as the capability to fully embrace them.”
Apple employees made specific recommendation, all related to the need for a bottom design process:
- We are formally requesting that Apple considers remote and location-flexible work decisions to be as autonomous for a team to decide as are hiring decisions.
- We are formally requesting a company-wide recurring short survey with a clearly structured and transparent communication / feedback process at the company-wide level, organization-wide level, and team-wide level, covering topics listed below.
- We are formally requesting a question about employee churn due to remote work be added to exit interviews.
- We are formally requesting a transparent, clear plan of action to accommodate disabilities via onsite, offsite, remote, hybrid, or otherwise location-flexible work.
- We are formally requesting insight into the environmental impact of returning to onsite in-person work, and how permanent remote-and-location-flexibility could offset that impact.
Whether it is the process I have defined in my course, or some other, this is a time to recognize that the children have grown up, they are capable of designing their own work system, within boundaries and to support the company’s goals.