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Apple wants workers back in the office. Is your company next?

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Are you as obsessed with reading about other people’s weird obsessions as I am? My former colleague David Pierce writes about his addiction to DeskTube (his name for the YouTube videos dedicated to setting up your home desk). Today tech company leaders weigh in on Apple’s return-to-work plan (it’s real this time). Plus, hiring managers think skills are more important than college degrees. So why are they hesitant to hire people with the skills and without the degrees? And your boss might be a deepfake.

— Meg Morrone, senior editor (email | twitter)

We want you back

This week Apple announced that everyone must come back to the office, for real this time. As first reported by Bloomberg, Santa Clara workers will need to work from the Cupertino spaceship three days a week, starting Sept. 5. They’re required to be there Tuesdays, Thursdays and an additional third day of their team's choosing. Then they can choose to work remotely for the rest of the week.

Apple has historically been a canary in the coal mine in terms of big industry culture shifts, but it’s also been more dedicated to RTO than most other tech companies. Protocol asked tech leaders to weigh in on Apple’s decision.

Apple is right. “Apple has the power to move the entire industry with this announcement,” Larry Gadea told Protocol. Gadea, the founder and CEO of workplace platform Envoy, has some real skin in the game when it comes to workers getting back to a physical location, but he also genuinely believes face-to-face collaboration is essential. “With the economy the way it is and layoffs happening, people need to rally together to solve their company's problems. Culture is, and always will be, how companies identify — and being together in person, even two or three days a week, is important for culture, creativity and the business.”

Apple is wrong. "Apple's revised return-to-office guidelines are both disappointing and surprising,” says Annie Dean, Atlassian’s head of Team Anywhere. “For a company that helped invent mobile, they're fighting remote work like they're still just a desktop company.” Dean told Protocol that companies like Apple should be encouraging more flexibility. “Apple is missing an opportunity to identify the challenges remote workers will face because they're not living this reality themselves. They should be asking employees to embrace remote working to help fix the 'bugs' of remote, like working outside, on the go or with limited Wi-Fi — to make the best product possible for their customers.”

Never force it. Darren Murph, head of remote for GitLab, has a few things to say about mandatory back-to-the-office requirements. “It limits the agency of team members to redesign their lives, which manifests as low engagement at work,” Murph told Protocol. “This form of hybrid work invites inequity and fails to acknowledge new workplace experience expectations.”

Meet in the middle. “In-office Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 makes less and less sense for many people and many businesses. Employees see that, and so now employers [do too],” says Dan Pupius, CEO and founder of remote work software platform Range. “This policy change from Apple is a step towards meeting employees in the middle, and I expect will lead to further flexibility down the road.”

Pick the days when people come in. Productivity software ClickUp also designates certain days where employees are asked to come into the office. “For those employees, being together can enhance in-person connection, a significant value that can't be quantified,” says Alex Small, ClickUp’s VP of strategic finance. “No one wants to commute to an empty office, so identifying specific days to interact with co-workers as well as complete strategic work that benefits from in-person connection is key to fostering a strong culture."

Don’t measure productivity through butts in seats. “If employers want to retain and attract top talent, they need to offer a variety of truly flexible work models to meet team members where they are in their professional and personal lives,” Zoë Harte, chief people officer at Upwork, told Protocol. Harte says performance shouldn’t be judged by how often a worker comes to the office. “It’s time we raise our game as business leaders and get better at measuring productivity and at rewarding the behaviors and people that are truly adding value.”

Time will tell. Jason Fried is co-founder and CEO of 37signals, maker of Basecamp, software designed for remote work. Fried told Protocol that he’s obviously all in on remote work and has been for decades. But that doesn’t mean that Apple is making a mistake. “Given Apple's extraordinary history and success, it's hard to argue that they don't know what's best for them, their staff and the way they work,” said Fried. “Time will tell as things shake out, people shuffle around, new realities settle in and enough time creates the space and separation to look back and see how decisions played out."

— Meg Morrone, senior editor (email | twitter)

Does your boss sound a little funny?

As a cyberattack investigator, Nick Giacopuzzi’s work now includes responding to growing attacks against businesses that involve deepfaked voices — and has ultimately left him convinced that in today's world, "we need to question everything."

In particular, Giacopuzzi has investigated multiple incidents where an attacker deployed fabricated audio, created with the help of AI, that purported to be an executive or a manager at a company. You can guess how it went: The fake boss asked an employee to urgently transfer funds. And in some cases, it’s worked, he said.

"It's your boss's voice. It sounds like the person you talk to every day," said Giacopuzzi, who is senior consultant for cyber investigations, intel and response at StoneTurn. "Sometimes it can be very successful."

It’s a new spin on the impersonation tactics that have long been used in social engineering and phishing attacks, but most people aren’t trained to disbelieve their ears.

Read the full story.

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Gen Z is skeptical of the college-to-tech-job pipeline

The world of work is changing, and a college degree might no longer be required for many jobs. Jobs for the Future, an organization devoted to equitable economic advancement, recently released a study on Gen Z and employer perceptions of education-to-career pathways. The research found that although employers want to hire people for their skills and not their degrees, many employers still view this non-traditional path as risky.

  • 72% of employers agree that a degree is not a reliable signal of assessing the quality of a candidate.
  • 81% of employers say organizations should hire based on skills rather than degrees.
  • 68% of employers surveyed say that organizations should proactively hire candidates from non-degree pathways.
  • A little over half (54%) of employers feel that it’s still less risky to hire someone with a college degree.
  • 80% of employers said that they need more information on how non-degree pathways differ.

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Dan Price, who recently tweeted that “An actual good CEO would never do layoffs ever,” has resigned from his job as CEO of Gravity Payments. Price made news for raising all employee salaries to $70,000 as well as for misconduct and misdemeanor criminal charges.

"What would be the lowest salary you would work for? Absolute minimum that you can tolerate?" This is just one of the gems from this giant thread of HR red flags. (Reddit)

Burned out at 25: How the impacts of the pandemic on our careers is hitting younger workers harder.

Sponsored content from Cisco

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