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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