Ian Goodfellow, machine learning director at Apple, has resigned over the company’s return-to-work policy. In April 2022, it was revealed that Apple CEO Tim Cook had sent out a memo in March urging employees to return to office for at least a day every week, starting April 11. However, on May 4, they increased it to a minimum of two days per week, which will eventually be raised to three days a week from May 23.
Verge tech reporter Zoe Schiffer revealed the news on Twitter that Goodfellow quit in protest over the new work policy. Ian Goodfellow previously worked with Google, before joining Apple a little over three years ago. He was hired as the iPhone-maker tried to enhance its machine learning and AI capabilities. It appears that in a note to staff, he mentioned that “I strongly believe that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team.”
Before Goodfellow’s machine learning stint, he held the position of senior staff research scientist at Alphabet Inc., and worked on Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs). He is also known as the father of GANs for his pioneering work.
Do Apple Employees Have to Return to Work?
A group of Apple employees had started pushing back on the policy much earlier. They call themselves ‘Apple Together’ and even have a web page and a Twitter account. Their Twitter bio reads – Apple workers in retail, corporate, RCC and AppleCare uniting to change Apple.
Disgruntled by the recent work-from-office mandate, the group had published an open letter to Apple executives, where they argued that the new policy “will change the makeup of our workforce. It will make Apple younger, whiter, more male-dominated, more neuro-normative, more able-bodied, in short, it will lead to privileges deciding who can work for Apple, not who’d be the best fit.”
In the letter, they detail how a remote working structure will end up damaging employee morale, inclusivity, and diversity.
More importantly the letter makes a compelling case for how the Hybrid Working Pilot, as the new return-to-work policy is called, sets a bad example for customers and clients. It states, “We tell all of our customers how great our products are for remote work, yet, we ourselves, cannot use them to work remotely? How can we expect our customers to take that seriously? How can we understand what problems of remote work need solving in our products, if we don’t live it?
How can we expect to convince the best people to come work with us, if we reject anyone who needs the smallest bit of flexibility? How can we expect them to do their best work, but don’t trust them to know how to do so?”
Employees have voiced concerns regarding a toxic work culture, lack of work-life balance, and the possibility of Covid-19 as to why they wish to continue working remotely.
Hybrid Work Policies
The Verge reported that Goodfellow, the machine learning director informed employees about his reason for leaving in an email. He mentioned that his decision was majorly influenced by Apple’s-return-to-work policy. A small survey revealed that most employees are actively seeking other opportunities as they do not wish to return to office. They believe that they have sufficiently demonstrated their capabilities and commitment to work during the pandemic.
According to a survey by Gartner, by the end of the current quarter in June, most organizations will open up their offices. Other than Apple, firms like CitiGroup, Google, and BNY Mellon have also embraced a hybrid policy. Human resource experts, however, warn that companies might end up losing out on good employees if they don’t offer flexibility. As the US unemployment rate stands at 3.6%, it is clear that demand far outstrips supply and this will work in favor of job seekers.
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