According to a memo sent to employees on Thursday, Apple is postponing its return to corporate offices from October to January at the earliest due to rising COVID-19 cases and new variants.
The company said it would confirm the reopening schedule a month before employees return to the office. Apple had previously sought to require all employees to return to corporate offices by early September, before that was postponed to October. When employees need to return, they are expected to work in the office at least three days a week – Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays – with the option to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays.
The memo sent to employees by HR and Retail Manager Deirdre O’Brien added that the company does not currently expect to close its offices or retail stores. But she strongly encouraged staff to get vaccinated. The company doesn’t require any vaccinations or tests yet, but is expanding its testing program to include up to three home coronavirus tests per week. An Apple spokeswoman did not want to comment on the memo.
The iPhone maker was one of the first US tech giants to delay plans for a return to normal in July as COVID-19 and highly transmissible variants began to spread in the summer. Now the advent of the delta variant around the world is forcing America’s largest corporations to rethink, even if infection rates are still around a quarter of their peak.
After Apple dropped the mask requirement in June, Apple reintroduced the policy last month. The company also abandoned a plan to restart courses in business in less than a day.
Apple closed a retail store in South Carolina earlier Thursday after more than 20 employees either tested positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to it. The company has also reduced operating hours at some retail locations, in part because employees are not working due to the virus.
After Lyft, Amazon, and Facebook, among others, Apple is the youngest company to postpone its office return to 2022. A return in January 2022 would mean Apple employees will not have to go to company premises for nearly two years since the virus surge began in the US in March 2020.
Apple recently launched a program to allow some retail workers to work from home by helping people online. Physical stores will play a crucial role in the coming months as the company launches new iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, AirPods, and Mac models.
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