Apple is delaying its return to corporate offices from October until January at the earliest because of the increase in COVID-19 cases and new variants, according to a memo sent to employees on Thursday.
The company told employees it would confirm the reopening schedule a month before employees are required to return to the office. Apple had previously intended to require all employees to return to corporate offices in early September, before postponing until October. When employees are required to return, they must work in the office at least three days a week – Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays – with remote work available on Wednesdays and Fridays.
The memo to the team, sent by head of human resources and retail Deirdre O’Brien, added that the company currently does not expect to close its offices or retail stores. But she strongly encouraged employees to be vaccinated. The company has yet to require vaccines or testing, although it is ramping up its testing program to up to three home tests for coronaviruses per week. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on the memo.
In July, the iPhone maker became one of the first tech giants in the United States to put off plans for a return to normalcy, as the COVID-19 and highly transmissible variants began to spread throughout the summer. Now, the emergence of the Delta variant around the world is forcing a rethink among America’s biggest corporations, even with infection rates still about a quarter of what they were at their peak.
After scrapping its mask requirement in June, Apple reinstated the policy last month. The company also rejected a plan to restart classes at the store after less than a day.
Earlier on Thursday, Apple closed a retail store in South Carolina after more than 20 employees tested positive or were exposed to COVID-19. The company also reduced hours of operation at some retail locations due, in part, to employees leaving because of the virus.
Apple is the latest corporation to postpone the return of its office until 2022, following Lyft, Amazon and Facebook, among others. A return in January 2022 would mean that Apple employees will have spent nearly two years without being forced into corporate premises since the US virus outbreak began in March 2020.
Apple recently launched a program to allow some retail employees to work from home, helping people online. Its brick-and-mortar stores will play a key role in the coming months as the company launches new iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, AirPods and Mac models.
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