Apple Employees Continue To Work From Home on Future Products

Apple Reportedly Postpones March Media Event Over Coronavirus Concerns

Despite having employees work from home, Apple continues to work on future products, expected to release before the end of this year. These products include a new HomePod speaker, next-generation Apple TV set-top box, 14-inch MacBook Pro, new iPads, Apple Watch Series 6 and iMac refresh.

This is new territory for Apple as it has a tradition of secrecy around its future products. This means that employees have not been able to take under-development products outside of Apple's offices. For the employees who could, there were multiple clearances required. Bloomberg has shed some light on these interesting developments in Apple's work culture:

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The shift from office culture to remote work has been challenging for the hardware-focused company with a passion for secrecy. In the past, Apple has gone to great lengths to keep its new products shielded from the public until the company is ready to unveil them. Employees work behind secure doors with blacked-out windows, lock products in cabinets and are barred from discussing their assignments even with spouses. Now, working from home, some are finding it hard to adjust and there have been minor hardware development setbacks, according to Apple employees who asked not to be named talking about company matters.

Just like most other countries around the world, Apple has allowed employees to work from home. Those who still visit office for work have to maintain social distancing. Regular health monitoring is also required at Apple's offices.

In early March, in a contrast to its normal practices, Apple started allowing engineers to take home early versions of future devices to continue work during the lockdown period. Previously, the company allowed select employees to take home nearly complete devices such as iPhones for real world testing.

As expected, the company has taken all its meetings online. Apple uses and allows employees to communicate using FaceTime, Slack, Jabber and WebEx. Zoom and Skype are not part of these whitelisted apps.

Meetings have continued by phone and video conferencing. Apple requires employees to communicate via its own FaceTime service, Slack Technologies Inc.’s app and Cisco Systems Inc.’s Jabber or WebEx in order to maintain secrecy. For file sharing, Apple limits working to its suite of productivity apps, Inc.’s Quip and Box.

Taking home future hardware is not as easy as picking it up and leaving office. Employees have to get approvals from the vice president. A list is maintained which is reviewed by a management team led by Tim Cook.

Taking home a future product requires the green light from the vice president of an employee’s organization. That list of staff with future devices at their homes also is sometimes reviewed by Apple’s senior vice presidents, the management team run by Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook.

Apple is also strictly controlling who can take home work-in-progress copies of iOS 14 and iPadOS 14. Surprisingly, this strict control is not working well as tons of iOS 14 features have already been leaked thanks to MacRumors and 9to5Mac, who have access to, or know someone who has access to, early builds of these upcoming software updates.

As part of the work-from-home order, Apple has clamped down on which employees are allowed to take home future versions of software, including the next release of iOS, the platform that runs the iPhone and iPad. Like with hardware, employees working on unreleased software, such as the upcoming iOS 14, require approval from the highest levels of the organization, the people said.

The company is also trying to keep work fun by arranging a contest where employees share photos of their home workspaces. Apple asks the employees to make sure that future products are not in any of these photos.

It was previously reported that Apple employees were finding it difficult to work from home. From the looks of it, the issue seems to have been resolved. At this stage, it is anybody's guess as to how long the COVID-19 pandemic will last. Until then, companies and employees will have to adjust accordingly.

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