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Apple adds 2-week work-from-anywhere benefit to hybrid office return—will it catch on?

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Apple will have employees return to office buildings three days a week, with the option to work remotely twice a week, beginning in September, the Verge reports.

In a letter to employees this week, CEO Tim Cook outlined plans to have workers back in the office by fall on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and those with manager approval can work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays each week. Some teams that require in-person work will be onsite four to five days a week.

Rigid work schedules could lead people to quit

The tech giant's new remote-work policies are more rigid than some of its biggest competitors.

Microsoft employees have been notified they can continue to work from home half the time, or full-time with manager approval. Last summer, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg estimated half of the organization will continue to work remotely over the next five to 10 years. Meanwhile, Twitter continues to stand out for its May 2020 announcement that employees can work from home "forever."

Kate Lister, president of the research and consulting firm Global Workplace Analytics, says Apple's announcement specifying in-office and remote days strikes her as "a bit odd, not in terms of the frequency of remote work, but in the fact that they are specifying the in-office days as Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday on a companywide basis."

Google also recently announced plans to bring employees together three times a week, but leaves it to teams to decide on which days, and says up to 20% of its workforce will be able to telecommute permanently.

Lister sees some benefits of Apple's move, such as helping to take the guesswork out of knowing when colleagues will be on-site, to predict when resources such as janitorial or food services will be needed, to increase cross-team brainstorms, and to help employees arrange caregiving needs.

But she says limiting employee autonomy could lead people to quit. According to one May survey of 1,000 U.S. adults, 39% would consider quitting if their employers weren't flexible about remote work moving forward.

Even some of Lister's clients who have yet to announce their future hybrid plans are already losing talent to employers that are being upfront and transparent about permanent remote work — especially among tech companies in pricey cities.

Limiting remote work and recruiting opportunities could also negatively impact the future of Apple's products and services: "It does not afford Apple the benefit of a broader talent pool and the diversity of thought that comes from being able to hire the best and the brightest regardless of where they work," Lister says.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNBC Make It's request for comment.

New 2-week work-from-anywhere benefit

Apple also announced it will allow employees to work from anywhere for up to two weeks per year, "to be closer to family and loved ones, find a change of scenery, manage unexpected travel, or a different reason all your own," according to the memo.

For other companies considering the move, a work-from-anywhere perk could be an attractive bonus to flexible work, but "if that's all they're offering and not in addition to being able to work from home on some weekdays, I'd say don't even bother," Lister says.

Offering a limited work-from-anywhere option could be a compromise to encourage employees to stay in a city where their employer is located, or return if they've moved away in the last year. Local tax, employment and compliance laws make it difficult for companies to operate on a fully work-from-anywhere model.

But noting that many people already find it difficult to disconnect from work during their paid time off, Lister refers to the flex-time perk as a "working vacation" that Americans are already accustomed to: "I don't think it'll add too much to attraction and retention efforts."

Check out: 1 in 4 workers is considering quitting their job after the pandemic

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