Well, this is awkward. One of Apple’s highest-profile return-to-office detractors reportedly landed a new gig at Alphabet’s DeepMind, marking the latest drama over Big Tech’s remote work scuffles. That move, ironically, comes right around the same time Apple decided to walk back its most recent return-to-office push
In an internal memo viewed by Bloomberg Tuesday, the company said it will delay its three-day in-office work requirement set to take effect on May 23. The memo reportedly cited the recent uptick in covid-19 cases for the delay and didn’t provide any hard date for when they’d try again. Apple workers are still required to work in the office two days per week and will now have to wear masks in common areas.
At the same time, Ian Goodfellow, Apple’s former Director of Machine Learning, who dramatically left the company at least in part over its remote work restrictions, will reportedly join Alphabet’s DeepMind. Sources told Bloomberg Goodfellow will join DeepMind as an “individual contributor.” He had previously worked as a senior researcher at Google back in 2019.
That job switch marks a major blow for Apple, a company that’s struggled to appease workers at odds with its return to work strategy. Goodfellow, who’s the most senior member known to have jumped ship over remote work so far, reportedly addressed the issue directly in a note to staff obtained by The Verge’s Zoë Schiffer. “I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,” Goodfellow reportedly wrote.
Ian Goodfellow, Apple’s director of machine learning, is leaving the company due to its return to work policy. In a note to staff, he said “I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team.” He was likely the company’s most cited ML expert.— Zoë Schiffer (@ZoeSchiffer) May 7, 2022
Goodfellow’s departure came around the same time a group of Apple employees wrote an open letter to company executives criticising the policies which it claimed were “driven by fear.”
“We are not asking for everyone to be forced to work from home,” the letter reads. “We are asking to decide for ourselves, together with our teams and direct manager, what kind of arrangement works best for each one of us, be that in an office, work from home, or a hybrid approach. Stop treating us like school kids who need to be told when to be where and what homework to do.”
Workers, more than ever, are willing to ditch their companies over workplace flexibility. According to an April ADP report, nearly two-thirds (64%) of U.S. workers served said they would consider looking for a new job if they were forced to return to an office full time.
Apple did not immediately respond to Gizmodo’s request for comment.
It’s worth noting that Alphabet hasn’t fully embraced a remote-first office either. Google, the conglomerate’s largest workforce, moved to a hybrid workweek back in April which required employees to work from their office three days per week. That sounds pretty similar to Apple’s proposal, though previous reports suggest Google more regularly approves remote requests. As of last August, the company reportedly approved 85% of employee requests to work remotely or relocate. Gizmodo reached out to DeepMind for more details on its remote work approval process but they declined to comment.