Cots in the hall for Apple engineers

July 17, 2010

Steve Jobs has famously said that we have been “working our butts off” in order to find a solution for the iPhone 4′s antenna issue. For some denizens of 1 Infinite Loop, that means long, long hours as they struggle to get their arms around a problem that’s resulted in few real complaints and even fewer returns.

By now most of us have watched Steve Jobs “antennagate” speech and heard him now famously say, “We’ve been working our butts off in the last 22 days to understand what the real issues are here so we can come up with real solutions.” As you’d expect for some people at the company are living that statement a little more fully than others.

Bloomberg reports that Apple’s engineering department has cots set up in the halls and that cars can be found in the parking lot at all hours of the day and night.

Although this is to be expected, given how hyper-sensitive the press and blogshere have become to anything seemingly amiss at Apple, this work marathon could pose two newish problems for Apple. First, the law of diminishing returns means that putting in hours around the clock and not adhering to a schedule will leave workers and managers exhausted.

Honestly, I believe Apple has a firm grasp on this aspect.

Six of one, a half dozen of the other…

Secondly, there’s the appearance of Apple abusing workers. Whereas there are numerous laws that protect rank-and-file hourly workers that Apple surely adheres to, managers and executives are allowed to work themselves to the bone again and again.

The media being strategically lazy and bloggers just looking for headlines that bite won’t allow for the distinction.

Given that Apple’s been sued by employees in the past over unpaid overtime and the bad press Foxconn, the company’s Taiwanese manufacturing partner, has received over unfair working conditions in China, this is a perception issue Apple has to get out in front now.

That is, Apple can’t afford another crisis right now…

What’s your take?

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4 Responses to “Cots in the hall for Apple engineers”

  1. Alan Smith:

    Attempting to find another Apple scandal? Why not try to focus on the REAL scandal, that is, BP leaking oil into the gulf for nearly 3 months and ruining jobs, people’s livelihoods, and not to mention the environment. Attennagate is over. Move on.

  2. aquaadverse:

    “Why not try to focus on the REAL scandal, that is, BP leaking oil into the gulf for nearly 3 months and ruining jobs, people’s livelihoods, and not to mention the environment. Attennagate is over. Move on.”

    Why not sick to the subject instead of stupid straw men?

    Apple has been touting that their closed system gives them superior control over QC and results in a superior product.

    Sorry, you can’t use media hype to raise expectations and inflate desirability for a product then squeal “Foul” if it comes flawed.

    O Carlson’s nonstop gushing fanboy cheering aside, this is very embarrassing for Apple.

  3. Rob:

    “…and bloggers just looking for headlines that bite won’t allow for the distinction.”

    Pot calling the kettle black aye?

    Engineers have been asked to solve the problem of the antennae, it’s called dedication…
    I myself work late hours to solve engineering design issues in my company… then I get a holiday once the issue is solved… I also get paid overtime for that.

    Why not simply ask the employees if they get overtime pay… instead of fear, conjecture and conjuring magical scandals from zero evidence.

  4. madprof44:

    This would look like a scandal in France, but I’m happy to work in a place where dedication is rewarded rather than discouraged. I’m in a knowledge-based profession and after nearly 30 years still put in 16 hour days regularly and occasionally find myself on a 24 on/ 12 off schedule. Mind you, I do so willingly, a factor this article doesn’t address with respect to Apple’s engineers; but I’d very much resent EU-style restrictions on my ability to do so. Yes, there’s the danger that performance will decline over time, but that is an issue for the individuals involved and their project managers. The effects vary so widely that generalizations are foolish. Some people become zombies, others pass into an unusually creative state. In the absence of a complaint who are we to judge?

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