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Apple Joins Tech, Entertainment Rivals Ramping Up Demands for In-Office Work

Twitter, Disney, Warner Bros. Discovery, Amazon and Meta Platforms are among the companies pushing for more bodies at desks

Apple is the latest company to begin hounding its staffers to get back to the office.

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant is tracking employee attendance at the office using badge records, Zoe Schiffer, the managing editor of tech newsletter Platformer said in a tweet Friday morning.

Apple will start giving staffers “escalating warnings if they don’t come in 3x per week,” Schiffer reported.

“At Apple, some orgs are saying failure to comply could result in termination, but that doesn’t appear to be a company-wide policy,” Schiffer added.

The forced reduction or ending of remote work is becoming a higher priority not only for Apple but for a range of entertainment and media companies – from Disney, where Bob Iger’s return heralded more demands to get bodies back at desks four days a week, to Amazon, which has told staffers they must show up three days a week starting May 1, to Warner Bros. Discovery, where efforts to push more people back to the office sparked backlash.

A range of issues are at play, from concerns about the hefty sums these companies are paying for office space that is sitting idle, to worries about productivity — some businesses are concerned that employees are moonlighting at another job while on the clock — and fears that younger staffers aren’t getting the mentorship they need to develop.

The amorphous “culture” also comes into play.

“It’s easier to learn, model, practice, and strengthen our culture when we’re in the office together most of the time and surrounded by our colleagues,” Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said in a memo last month. “It’s especially true for new people (and we’ve hired a lot of people in the pandemic); but it’s also true for people of all tenures at Amazon. When you’re in-person, people tend to be more engaged, observant, and attuned to what’s happening in the meetings and the cultural clues being communicated.”

The efforts to shift remote workers back to in-person is showing fruit: office occupancy topped 50% for the first time since the pandemic began in January, although weather disruptions and other issues pushed that down to 47.3% last week, in part because of a 10% drop in Austin thanks to South By Southwest, according to security firm Kastle Systems Workplace Occupancy Barometer.

Among the in-office boosters is Elon Musk, who canceled remote work in the first all-staff email he sent after buying Twitter in late October.

It’s apparently still a point of contention at the social media platform.

“Musk sent Twitter employees an email at 2:30am saying the ‘office is not optional’ and noting [San Francisco] was half empty yesterday,” Schiffer tweeted.

Likewise, Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in a memo to staff last week announcing another 10,000 people will be laid off, said that the company is “targeting this summer to complete our analysis from our hybrid work year of learning, so we can further refine our distributed work model.”

Staffers reluctant to alter their new remote-dependent lifestyles are tempted to quit, but these widespread layoffs are changing the dynamics across the industries.

Zuckerberg included a section in his memo with the subheading, “In-person time helps build relationships and get more done.”

“Our early analysis of performance data suggests that engineers who either joined Meta in-person and then transferred to remote or remained in-person performed better on average than people who joined remotely,” he wrote. “This analysis also shows that engineers earlier in their career perform better on average when they work in-person with teammates at least three days a week.”

He continued: “This requires further study, but our hypothesis is that it is still easier to build trust in person and that those relationships help us work more effectively.” The company is still working to understand the data it has gathered, he said.

“In the meantime, I encourage all of you to find more opportunities to work with your colleagues in person.”