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Apple Inc.’s CEO Tim Cook said recently that it “seems likely” it will be June 2021 before most teams return to their offices. But return they will, says Cook. The issue is not if, but as soon as possible.
One of the world’s technology powerhouses, Apple has long been known for its office-centric culture, despite its unsurpassed technology enabling remote work when necessary. Among other reasons, Apple’s technology prowess is why they migrated flexibly to a remote workforce in response to the pandemic restrictions. It’s also why they will continue to be able to do it in the future.
To be or not to be remote
Yet Cook has been firm and open about getting his workforce back to the office. While some challenge the idea (not just for Apple) of returning to all that overhead – millions of square feet, maintenance, utilities, security, insurance, ergonomics, ambiance – when we’ve all proved that we’re really good at this remote thing, Cook’s rationale is simple. “There’s no replacement for face-to-face collaboration,” he stated in a virtual town hall.
Is Cook right?
For all of us, especially those who think the world has permanently changed to remote work, Cook’s statements must be considered with the gravitas they have.
With a nod to getting work done out of the office without sacrificing productivity or results, Cook still said “All of these learnings are important. On the other side of this pandemic, we will preserve everything that is great about Apple while incorporating the best of our transformations this year.” That doesn’t sound like a commitment to a singularly remote future.
More broadly, the technology keeping businesses, schools, and governments open (to whatever extent) during Covid-19 has been nothing short of a lifeline, but once we get past the pandemic, we would be well advised to examine our situations in terms of human interaction first and technology capabilities second. Metaphorically, this would be like falling overboard on a cruise and being thrown a lifesaver: glad to have it for the moment but wouldn’t want to spend the rest of the cruise like that. Back on…