With Just 9 Words, Apple Revealed the Best Plan for Returning to the Office I’ve Seen Yet

On Friday, Bloomberg reported on an email from Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, to the company’s employees, setting an April 11th date for returning to the office. Cook says the company plans to phase in a sort of hybrid approach to working, with employees only coming in one day a week. Over the following weeks, that will increase until most employees will be expected to work in the office three days each week.

The email has plenty of the types of things CEOs say about the importance of collaborating together in person. You can certainly debate whether you think it’s necessary to return to in-person work. After two years of proving that much of the work we do can just as productively be done remotely, it’s fair to be skeptical of the way any company presents its plans.

What isn’t up for debate is that Apple clearly thinks there is value in having its employees back together, in the office. Working remotely is different than working together in-person, there’s really no arguing that fact. “For many of you, I know that returning to the office represents a long-awaited milestone and a positive sign that we can engage more fully with the colleagues who play such an important role in our lives,” Cook wrote.

At the same time, the company also appears to recognize that not all of those employees share the same level of conviction:

 “For others, it may also be an unsettling change,” Cook’s email said. “I want you to know that we are deeply committed to giving you the support and flexibility that you need in this next phase–a commitment that begins with this gradual introduction of our hybrid pilot and includes the option to work remotely for up to four weeks a year.”

Balancing the needs of the business with the needs of your team is the responsibility of every manager. Figuring out the right version of hybrid work isn’t going to be easy–for that matter, nothing about the last two years has been easy. It’s been difficult and companies have had to adapt and make changes as circumstances changed. That’s only going to continue to be a challenge as employees who have grown used to working remotely have to make another change. 

As I read Cook’s email, however, I was struck by something he said near the…