Apple remote working vital in China despite US return to office

Apple remote working has been a bone of contention for many US workers, after the company insisted that almost everyone should return to the office at least three days a week. But there is one US team who is making extensive use of remote working: US engineers managing production in China.

Apple engineers are said to be using a combination of live-streaming video and augmented reality, with iPads the main device in use…


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

From April, the rule was a minimum of two days per week, and this month the requirement is being increased to three days – with the possibility of more to follow.

Starting on May 23, employees will need to be in the office three days per week. This is the start of Apple’s so-called “hybrid” work plan. Apple has not revealed how long it will have this hybrid work plan in place, but Tim Cook has described it as a “pilot.” This implies that it could change sometime, and the company could eventually require employees to return to full-time in person.

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

We tell all of our customers how great our products are for remote work, yet, we ourselves, cannot use them to work remotely?

While Apple appears to be taking an ‘our way or the highway’ approach, this may see it lose a significant amount of talent. Just yesterday we learned that the company’s director of machine learning resigned over the policy, after apparently being denied the flexibility to allow some of his own team to work remotely.

Apple remote working proving vital in China

The WSJ reports that remote working is being used extensively by US engineers responsible for overseeing operations by Apple’s manufacturing partners in China.

They would normally spend much of their time in-country, but strict travel restrictions have kept them out of China for the past two years. Even those few who were allowed to travel previously have been prevented from visiting Shanghai – home to many Apple production facilities – due to a month-long, city-wide lockdown.

That has led to a new approach of remote working.

The iPhone maker has also adopted some technology, including live-streaming, that helps staff based at its headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., Remotely follow what’s happening on China’s factory floors, the people said. Apple has used iPads to communicate and augmented-reality tools to help technical experts in Cupertino check factory issues, one of the people said […]

Apple used to book 50 business-class seats daily between San Francisco and Shanghai’s Pudong airport, according to posters from United Airlines Holdings Inc. that circulated on Twitter in 2019 and were confirmed by the carrier at the time. The route accounted for $ 35 million of United’s annual revenue.

But after Covid-19 broke out in early 2020, Apple gave up sending in battalions of engineers. That year’s new iPhone models came out a month to two months later than usual.

The report is light on detail, but says that this video-based approach was used to allow US engineers to remotely guide local contractors through the process of assembling prototype iPhones, for example.

Apple has also gradually delegated greater powers to Chinese managers, transitioning 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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Naveen Kumar

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