First Look With Surveillance: China Crackdown, Return to Office Reversal
Apple Inc. is delaying its return to corporate offices from October until January at the earliest because of surging COVID-19 cases and new variants, according to a memo sent to employees on Thursday.
The company told staff it would confirm the re-opening timeline one month before employees are required to return to the office. Apple had previously aimed to require all staff to return to corporate offices by early September before delaying that until October. When employees are required to return, they will be expected to work at the office at least three days a week -- Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays -- with remote work on Wednesday and Friday available.
The memo to staff, sent by human resources and retail head Deirdre O’Brien, added that the company does not currently expect to shutter its offices or retail stores. But she strongly encouraged staff to get vaccinated. The company is yet to require vaccinations or testing, though it is upping its testing program to as many as three at-home coronavirus tests per week. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the memo.
The iPhone maker in July became one of the first U.S. tech giants to delay plans for a return to normality as COVID-19 and highly transmissible variants began to spread during the summer. Now, the emergence of the delta variant around the world is forcing a rethink among America’s largest corporations, even as infection rates are still about a quarter what they were at their peak.
After dropping its mask requirement in June, Apple reinstated the policy last month. The company also nixed a plan to reboot in-store classes after less than a day.
Earlier on Thursday, Apple closed a retail store in South Carolina after more than 20 employees either tested positive for or were exposed to COVID-19. The company has also reduced operating hours at some retail locations due, in part, to employees missing work because of the virus.
Apple is the latest corporation to delay its office return until 2022, following Lyft Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Facebook Inc., among others. A January 2022 return would mean that Apple employees will have gone nearly two years without being required to enter corporate premises, since the start of the virus surge in the U.S. in March 2020.
Apple recently launched a program to let some retail staff work from home by assisting people online. Its physical stores will play a critical role in the coming months as the company launches new iPads, iPhones, Apple Watches, AirPods and Macs.