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Apple workers fear a ‘draconian’ return-to-office plan like Tesla’s, with an overcrowded office and tracked attendance

August 19, 2022, 4:55 PM UTC

Apple CEO Tim Cook keeps trying to bring workers back into the office, only to find his efforts thwarted by continual coronavirus waves. After rolling out a slow hybrid plan in April, the company delayed such efforts in May due to an uptick in COVID-19 cases.

That left Apple employees continuing to work from home with the option to go into the office as they please. Not to be deterred, Apple recently announced that employees are set to finally return to the office three days a week starting September 5.

But some Apple workers fear the office isn’t ready for the influx of workers, according to their comments on Blind, an anonymous message board for techies. Blind users are mostly corporate employees who work in engineering or product, Rich Chen, director of public relations at Blind, previously told Fortune.

While Apple employees are not threatening to quit over the RTO mandate with as much ire as they did in the spring, they’re speaking of growing pains and worried about having their attendance tracked. (Apple did not respond to requests for comment.)

“I thought I was all for [a] return to office but God d*mn, is Apple park packed,” an Apple employee said on Blind, adding that the offices are overloaded: ”On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I can barely hear myself think when everyone is having a separate conversation, people’s phones are off silent getting a million messages a minute, and don’t even get me started on conference room availability.” 

Another Apple employee explained the root of the problem: “three years of expansion while offices did not.”

Apple went on a hiring spree in 2021, recruiting top cloud talent. But a growing workforce may put the tech giant face-to-face with the same return-to-office dilemma Tesla dealt with: not having enough physical resources. After Tesla CEO Elon Musk mandated that employees return to the office this summer, workers found there were not enough desks or parking spaces for everyone who had been hired over the last couple of years. Some Tesla employees told The Information that shaky Wi-Fi couldn’t even handle all the workers. 

As one Tesla worker commented on a Blind post about potentially overcrowded Apple offices following its RTO policy: “Welcome to the club.”

Traffic and bad coffee and surveillance, oh my! 

Apple workers aren’t just concerned about an office space that has outgrown its britches. They’re also waiting for an onslaught of employee monitoring in which their office attendance is tracked—not unlike the way Tesla tracks how often its workers “badge in.”

“Time logging is coming as well,” an Apple employee forecasted on Blind. “You will need to badge out so that they keep a tab. Draconian times are upon us.”

Another employee dryly joked that they were unsure if their bathroom breaks would be monitored, while another was more worried about getting to Apple’s overflowing parking lot. “Here we come traffic jams and hours-long travel,” commented another Apple employee.

Some workers said they could be enticed to return to the office by free perks like drinks and corporate lunches, but others were quick to shoot that down. “Where do you get free salad?” one employee wrote in response. “Also free coffee is not drinkable, I get my own Keurig cups.”

“Apple has free coffee and salad? I thought Tom Cook was too frugal for that,” chimed in a second worker.

Apple has historically offered free dinners for iOS or OS X team members, as well as subsidized cafés that gave employees a tax break by allowing them to pay for meals using a payroll deduction plan, according to Insider. The cafés offer everything from seafood to barbecue, and apparently apples are free. Whether the food is good is a matter of taste buds.

Workers will have the chance to ask all their questions about bathroom breaks and food perks given their eventual arrival in a couple weeks. Knock on wood for Apple that there’s not another coronavirus wave on the horizon.

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