Thanks to the coronavirus outbreak, you might have had to make a major adjustment and work from home. Some of us have been doing this for years. But those working out of Apple's campus in Cupertino have had to experience a whole new world. Bloomberg reports that starting this month, Apple allowed some of its engineers to take home new products being worked on. During normal times, that is a huge no-no at a company that covers up everything when the press pays a visit; then again, these are far from normal times.
Apple engineers can get permission to take home unfinished hardware
To help employees set up a home office, Apple has sent out tips on how to create ergonomic work setups, promised to reimburse employees for the money spent on the purchase of desks and computer monitors. It has also published responses to workers' questions about COVID-19. To help morale, Apple started a contest to see who has the best in-home setup. Those working from home must have secured doors with blacked-out windows and are not allowed to talk to their spouses about what they are doing. One Apple employee admitted that there have been minor hardware setbacks.
Taking home unfinished hardware still requires that an engineer get the approval from the vice president of an employee’s organization. While Apple does allow certain employees to take home nearly finished iPhone models for real-world testing, much of a product's development is done through face-to-face meetings. Apple is requiring that employees taking home unfinished software, such as iOS 14, receive approval from the upper echelon of the firm.
While some of the company's software developers have been upset about working from home amid all of the distractions that surface, Apple is still on track to release new versions of its software on time. Now that the physical June WWDC developer conference has been canceled, Apple will still hold the event online sometime in June and will discuss its upcoming software releases at that time.
Just because employees have to work from home, it doesn't mean that they are not getting together for meetings. However, these meetings are now being done over FaceTime, Slack, Jabber or WebEx in order to maintain privacy. Employees can share files using Apple's own apps or third-party apps like Box and Quip. Apple is still holding similar meetings for employees of the 458 Apple Stores outside mainland China that are closed. An internal memo recently leaked reveals that Apple is considering reopening these stores on a staggered basis starting in the first half of next month, although that can always change. Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of people and retail, has been sending out recordings made at home that include updates on employees and their relatives who have contracted the disease. Included with the rules of the contest was a warning from the company to employees, "If you’re working on anything confidential, please keep it out of the shot."
Some employees are being allowed to work out of Apple's Cupertino facilities. These engineers are permitted in to conduct work that requires hands-on development. At other offices in San Diego, California, Italy, Germany, and Asia, the company has its most severe restrictions in place. Employees in those areas are stuck working from home to at least April 5th. At that time, Apple will reconsider the restrictions based on the location of a particular office.
Like most companies operating during the COVID-19 crises, Apple is changing its rules on the go. In a letter to its staff Apple wrote, "whether you’re working at home or at the office, it’s always critical to keep confidential work confidential. While working remotely, use the same care and always securely store confidential items and documents when not in use."
Apple recently unveiled the 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro (2020) tablets which were reportedly produced in January before Apple's manufacturing partners were forced to shut down their assembly lines. We still expect the budget-priced iPhone 9 to be unveiled online in the not too distant future. And of course, the 2020 5G iPhone models could be introduced as usual in September although some analysts see a delay of a month or two. Apple is still working on new products including a sequel to the Home Pod smart speaker, one of the few consumer devices from Apple that has not been a hit.
The company keeps rolling on despite the pandemic. As Loup Ventures analyst Gene Munster notes, "Apple has struck the balance between recognizing that much of the world runs on their products and that they need to keep them functioning and advancing, and they are balancing that with employee safety. They are reminding us with these small products they’ve recently announced that they’re going to keep working."