24 January 2019
Open floor plans at Apple's new "spaceship" headquarters complex are said to be causing unhappiness among some staff. Photo:
Open floor plans at Apple's new "spaceship" headquarters complex are said to be causing unhappiness among some staff. Photo:

Why Apple’s new campus has upset some employees

More than 12,000 Apple employees are moving into the company’s new US$5 billion headquarters complex in Cupertino, California.

The six-year development, completed in April this year, was one of the final projects dreamed up by the company’s late founder Steve Jobs.

Jobs passed away in early October 2011, three months after announcing the Apple Park plan.

Located on the former Hewlett-Packard campus, Apple Park had special significance for Jobs given that he once worked as a summer intern at HP, an experience that helped steer his path into the computer industry.

The design of the spaceship-looking campus is inspired by Jobs’ childhood fantasy. He wanted to build Apple Park into the world’s best office building. Unfortunately, Jobs could only leave some broad conceptual ideas for the building as he passed away too soon.

Apple’s design chief Jonathan Ive was the one in charge of turning Job’s Apple Park ideas into reality.

The 708,000-square-meter Apple Park is the world’s most expensive company headquarters facility. The flying-saucer-like building has four floors, and the complex includes facilities such as fitness centers, and walking and running paths. An orchard, meadow and pond are part of the landscape.

It’s reported that the campus is surrounded by 7,000 trees, which reflects Jobs’ admiration for a garden in Japan’s Koyto city. Also, the campus has introduced a lot of energy-saving technologies.

Most of the power for the facilities will come from solar panels on the top of the building, and the parkland in the building will collect rain water and recycle it. According to reports, the campus will be able to supply extra fresh water for local communities in Cupertino. And the campus can do without air-conditioners for nine months of every year by relying on natural ventilation.

But not all employees like the “spaceship”.

One big change of the campus its open floor design, which is supposed to let employees easily mingle with each other to promote collaboration and interaction. Many internet companies have adopted open-plan layout in recent years.

Nevertheless, Apple, established in 1976, is a middle-aged company compared with a number of internet start-ups, and many of its long-time employees and mid-management staff are used to having individual offices.

But now, most staff at the new headquarters will sit together at large tables rather than in cubicles or walled offices.

A number of Apple employees are believed to have complained about the new office arrangement. Among them is Johny Srouji, senior vice-president of hardware technologies, according to reports.

Srouji is in charge of Apple’s chip design, a core division of Apple. Handling highly confidential work, Srouji is said to be very unhappy about his staff working side by side with marketing and social media staff.

Following the complaints, Apple is reported to have agreed to review the open-plan office setting for the team as well as for some other departments.

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Hong Kong Economic Journal columnist

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