In context: Apple has delayed plans to bring its employees back into the office by one month in light of surging Covid-19 cases worldwide. The company had wanted the majority of its workforce to return for three days per week in September, but that date has now been changed to October at the earliest.
News of the delay comes from Bloomberg, which cites people familiar with the matter. It means Apple has become one of the first US tech giants to alter its plans for a return to in-person work as a result of the highly transmissible Delta variant that originated in India.
The number of global Covid-19 infections reached 190.5 million on Monday, driven by a Delta variant that is also pushing up case numbers in all 50 states. Cases in the US on Sunday were up 140% compared to two weeks earlier, while hospitalizations jumped 34% and deaths were up 33%, according to a New York Times tracker.
While the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Google have said all or some of their staff can continue working remotely indefinitely, Apple has long been a proponent of in-person work.
“For all that we’ve been able to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: each other,” CEO Tim Cook wrote in an internal email last month. “Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.”
It seems many Apple employees don’t share Cook’s enthusiasm. The Verge reports that a group of workers in an internal Slack channel for thousands of “remote work advocates” collaborated on a letter addressed to Cook and other company leaders calling for Apple to embrace a remote/location-flexible work policy. Apple’s SVP of retail and people, Deirdre O’Brien, responded with: “in-person collaboration is essential to our culture and our future.”
Bloomberg writes that Apple is testing a hybrid in-store and work-from-home arrangement for retail employees, a result of more consumers opting for online shopping even as restrictions lift. Office workers, meanwhile, will be given a month’s warning before they’ll be expected to return.