Turns Out, Some Employees HATE Apple’s New $5 Billion Campus
For all of the time, money, and thought Apple put into its new $5 billion Cupertino headquarters—which partially opened back in April—the open-floor design of Apple Park is absolutely despised by some employees.
In a recent interview for the Wall Street Journal Magazine, Apple’s chief designer Jony Ive detailed what this project has encompassed since ground broke several years ago. In all, it’s Ive’s longest-running project since joining Apple. And, all things considered, it could be his most important. The building will reportedly hold some 13,000 employees—a little more than half of the 25,000 the city of Cupertino estimates that Apple employs.
So how can it be that, with all of the attention to detail and updated design concepts that have been put in place, employees are already unhappy prior to even moving in?
According to John Gruber, an Apple podcaster and blogger, it has everything to do with the lack of privacy integrated into the open floor plan. In a recent podcast, which was partially transcribed by Business Insider, Gruber recounted a story he heard thirdhanded, at least one executive put up such a fight that Apple agreed to build his department their own building outside of the campus.
"I heard that when floor plans were announced, that there was some, I don't know, meeting — Johny Srouji's team [Apple’s VP of Hardware Technologies]. He's in charge of Apple's silicon, the A10, the A11, all of their custom silicon. Obviously a very successful group at Apple, and a large and growing one with a lot on their shoulders,” Garber said. "When he was shown the floor plans, he was more or less just 'F--- that, f--- you, f--- this, this is bulls---.' And they built his team their own building, off to the side on the campus. So they're not even in — not only are they not going along with the open floor plans, but Srouji's team is in their own building. Maybe internally they're saying it's for security, or that's there's a logical reason for it, but my understanding is that that building was built because Srouji was like, 'F--- this, my team isn't working like this.'"
BI reported that this isn’t the first time an Apple executive has passed on a spot at Apple Park. Apparently, Eddy Cue, the company’s senior vice president of internet software and services, has claimed Infinite Loop, Apple’s former headquarters, for his team.
Open Shut Case?
The news about Apple employees being uneasy about the open-concept plan isn’t that surprising. After years of companies opting for this new office design strategy as a way to be more collaborative and millennial-friendly, the open-concept office is losing a lot of steam.
While this type of office design is great in terms of getting employees face-to-face with their coworkers and thinking collaboratively, there are plenty of case studies out there that show the open floor plan actually has quite the opposite effect. And rather than promoting a productive workspace, the open floor plan simply breeds water cooler talk all throughout the office, thus hurting productivity.
That kind of “collaborative” work environment might work well for some businesses. But for a company like Apple, where engineers might prefer the peace and quiet so they can focus on the coding in front of them, this might be an office nightmare.
“Many employees regard a lack of privacy in the workplace as intrusive and stressful,” Melissa Thompson, a Forbes contributor, wrote in a recent article. “When a worker has nowhere to go to privately blow off steam or have a confidential conversation with a coworker it tends to build up anxiety and even paranoia to the point where some workers go find a convenient broom closet in which to have a little quiet ‘me’ time.”
That said, it’s hard to promote teamwork in an environment where employees are trapped in cubicles all day.
So there’s definitely a fine line that needs to be walked when designing an office space for a large corporation like, say, Apple. Maybe that’s something Mr. Ive should’ve considered before embarking on such an enormous undertaking?