Apple remote work vital in China despite US back in office

Remote work at Apple has been a bone of contention for many American workers, after the company insisted that nearly everyone should return to the office at least three days a week. But there is one US team that makes extensive use of remote work: US engineers running production in China.

Apple engineers are said to be using a mixture of live video streaming and augmented reality, with iPads using as the main device…


During the height of the pandemic, most non-retail Apple employees were working from home. Many found they were happier and more productive working remotely, but Apple insisted that nearly everyone should return to the office.

From April, the rule was at least two days a week, and this month the requirement has been increased to three days – with more possible to follow.

From May 23, employees will need to stay in the office three days a week. This is the beginning of Apple’s so-called “hybrid” business plan. Apple has not disclosed how long this hybrid business plan will last, but Tim Cook has described it as “experimental.” This means that it can change at some point, and the company may eventually require employees to return to full-time work in person.

Many employees were unhappy with this. A common factor cited was a better work-life balance by eliminating commuting, which for many amounted to two hours or more a day – time they were instead able to spend with their families. They accused Apple of hypocrisy.

We tell all of our customers how great our products are for remote work, however, we ourselves can’t use them for remote work?

While Apple appears to be taking a “our way or the highway” approach, this could lead to a significant loss of talent. It was only yesterday that we learned that the company’s machine learning manager has resigned due to politics, after apparently being denied flexibility to allow some members of his team to work remotely.

Remote work at Apple proves vital in China

The The Wall Street Journal Reports indicate that US engineers responsible for overseeing operations by Apple’s manufacturing partners in China are using remote work on a large scale.

They usually spend most of their time in the country, but strict travel restrictions have kept them out of China for the past two years. Even those few who were previously allowed to travel were barred from visiting Shanghai – home to many Apple production facilities – due to the month-long citywide shutdown.

This has led to a new approach to working remotely.

The iPhone maker has also adopted some technology, including live streaming, that helps employees at its Cupertino, California, headquarters, remotely follow what’s happening on factory floors in China, the people said. One person said Apple used iPads for communication and augmented reality tools to help Cupertino technical experts check for factory issues. […]

Apple used to book 50 business class seats per day between San Francisco and Shanghai’s Pudong Airport, according to posters from United Airlines Holdings Inc. Which was circulated on Twitter in 2019 and confirmed by the carrier at the time. The road represents $35 million in annual revenue for United.

But after the outbreak of Covid-19 in early 2020, Apple gave up sending engineer battalions. New iPhone models appeared that year 1-2 months later than usual.

The report is light on details, but says this video-based approach has been used to allow US engineers to remotely guide local contractors through the process of assembling prototypes of iPhones, for example.

Apple also delegated progressively greater powers to Chinese managers, shifting them from merely reporting problems to Cupertino, to proposing solutions — although final decisions were still made in the US.

Photo: CardMapr/Unsplash

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