The opening of Apple Park has already begun, with thousands of employees in the process of relocating to the monumental new headquarters that was the dream of founder Steve Jobs.
It’s a massive undertaking that combines industrial design and nature. But it won’t address the problem of Apple employees being scattered around the region.
In a profile of Jony Ive’s work on Apple Park in the Wall Street Journal last week, executives suggested that a desire to consolidate the company’s far-flung workforce was one of the motivations behind the years and billions of dollars spent building Apple Park:
The scattering of thousands of Apple employees across more than 100 sites in Silicon Valley has rendered more difficult the collaboration necessary for innovation. “We didn’t plan our growth, and then when we saw our growth, we were so engrossed in trying to push things forward that we didn’t spend time to really develop the workplace,” says Cook. “We’ve done a really good job of working around it, but it’s not the way we want to be working, nor does it represent our culture well.”
And later in this story:
Ive and Cook place great importance on employees being physically together at work — ironic for a company that has created devices that enable people to work from a distance. Face-to-face communication is essential during the beginning of a project, when an idea is sprouting, they say. Once a model emerges from a series of conversations, it draws people in and gives focus. “For all of the beauty of technology and all the things we’ve helped facilitate over the years, nothing yet replaces human interaction,” says Cook, “and I don’t think it will ever happen.”
Yet with room for 12,000 employees, Apple Park may only have enough space for between half and two-thirds of Apple’s local employees.
We don’t have exact numbers for how many Apple employees there currently are in Silicon Valley. In 2015, The San Jose Mercury News reported there were 25,000 Apple employees in the “Santa Clara Valley.”
The County of Santa Clara disclosed that were 19,000 Apple employees in the county as of June 30, 2016. That was up from 10,000 in 2007, and just behind the 20,000 Google employees in the county. And there are no doubt some in neighboring counties, including San Mateo and San Francisco,
Apple has said it will continue to use its current, historic headquarters in Cupertino. But it will likely need to keep some employees in the numerous other spaces it has bought or rented around Silicon Valley.
It will be interesting to see which groups Apple has chosen to move to Apple Park. And equally interesting to see what it will do to ensure that those still stuck in an office somewhere don’t feel like second class citizens.