Apple Delays Return To Office Again

Tech giant Apple pushes back return to office until 1 February 2022, and will also pilot a hybrid working model going forward

CEO Tim Cook has said that Apple recognises the current situation with the Coronavirus pandemic is dynamic, and has pushed back the return to office date for its staff.

Tim Cook made the announcement in a memo to staff on Thursday, as seen by CNBC, and the tech giant has also said it will pilot a hybrid working model going forward.

Apple staff will be asked to come in to the office, one to two days a week for the first month, and then in March Apple will implement its hybrid work plan, in which the majority of workers will be asked to come in Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Apple chief executive Tim Cook at WWDC 2020. Image credit: Apple
Apple chief executive Tim Cook at WWDC 2020. Image credit: Apple

Return to office

Apple, like other technology giants, has repeatedly pushed back the return to office date as the Coronavirus pandemic stubbornly continues to impact countries and populations.

In August Apple pushed back the date for staff to return to corporate offices and campuses, until January 2022.

This was for Apple’s corporate staff of course.

Its retail staff have already returned to re-opened Apple Stores, which began opening again last year.

But this week Tim Cook told Apple corporate staff will only need to return to the office from 1 February 2022.

Hybrid working

“At the same time, we are committed to giving you more flexibility as we move forward,” Cook wrote in his memo. “In addition to the option of working remotely twice a week on Wednesday and Friday, we announced this summer that team members would be able to work remotely for up to two weeks per year with a manager’s approval.”

“I’m pleased to share that we’re increasing the amount of time you can work remotely to a total of four weeks per year,” he added. “This provides more opportunity to travel, be closer to your loved ones, or simply shake up your routines.”

“As we prepare to begin this new pilot, I want to reiterate that we remain focused, first and foremost, on the health and well-being of our teams and your families,” Cook said. “We know that vaccination is the most important step we can take for our own health and the health of our communities, and is the best way to prevent the severity and spread of the virus.”

“We will continue to closely review government guidance and requirements around vaccination,” he added. “In the meantime, we strongly encourage everyone who is able to get the vaccine to do so if it’s available to you.”

Apple’s hybrid work plan is a significant shift for the tech giant, which historically discouraged working from home.

But it is still more conservative than plans announced at Facebook and Twitter, which have allowed staff to work full time from home if they want.

CNBC reported that some parts of the United States are still dealing with major Covid-19 outbreaks. Parts of New England are reportedly dealing with rising case numbers and hospitalisations. In early November, hospitals in Colorado had to turn some patients away due to a Covid surge.

In Europe Germany is in the middle of a fourth wave of infections, and has implemented lockdown restrictions on unvaccinated people.

Vaccine status

Apple last month stopped short of issuing a blanket Coronavirus vaccine mandate for its staff, but it is going to make life very difficult for those members of staff who are refusing to get the jab.

Corporate workers at Apple who are unvaccinated will be required to get tested for Covid-19 every time they come into the office for work, starting from 1 November.

Meanwhile unvaccinated retail staff will be asked to test twice a week, and any staff member who opts not to disclose their vaccine status will be subjected to Covid-19 testing whenever they enter the office.

Unvaccinated retail staff will be required to be tested for Covid-19 twice a week.

Apple has reportedly made do-it-yourself test kits available for staff in Apple offices and retail stores. It has also reportedly developed an internal app so staff can self-report their status.

Apple is not alone here regarding a strict position on vaccines.

In July both Facebook and Google became the first two tech giants to announce they would require their staff to be vaccinated, when they return to offices or campuses.

IBM has also implemented a mandatory vaccine rule for its staff returning to the office. And it said it would suspend staff with no pay from 9 December if they choose to remain unvaccinated.