Apple Delays Return to Office Until October Due to COVID Variants

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Apple is pushing back its return to the office by one month, to October, as COVID-19 variants have caused the virus to renew its spread, Bloomberg reported.

The iPhone maker and tech giant said it would give its workers at least a month’s warning before requiring employees to return to their offices. The decision makes Apple one of the first major U.S. companies to delay its reopening plans due to the new variants, Bloomberg reported. 

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The belated return to work is a departure from CEO Tim Cook’s push to bring employees back for at least three days a week starting in early September, which Cook first announced in June. Some Apple employees protested that decision in a written letter, asking that all teams be given the option to work remotely. But the tech giant stood its ground, saying that in-person collaboration was “essential” to company culture. 

Now, it looks like those employees might’ve gotten their way as COVID-19 variants continue to spread. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that new cases were up by nearly 70 percent last week, and hospitalizations were up by nearly 36 percent as of July 16. The unvaccinated are most at risk, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a Friday briefing. 

Apple’s delayed return-to-work plans puts it more in line with the rest of the tech industry, which, as a whole, have offered more flexibility than the financial sector when it comes to in-person work. Google has said that 1 in 5 of its employees can work remotely indefinitely. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey previously said all 5,000 of the social media platform’s employees can work from home permanently. 

But, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman doubled down on his ultimatum to workers in an earnings call last week, saying that in-person work was essential to mentoring and developing professional skills, the New York Post reported. However, the bank will still bar unvaccinated employees, clients and visitors from its New York City and Westchester offices. 

Other banks have emphasized in-person work as well. JPMorgan Chase mandated that all workers return on a rotational schedule as soon as July, Goldman Sachs asked its workers to return in June, and Blackstone Group called its fully vaccinated workers back in June as well.

Apple is separately testing a hybrid in-store and work-from-home balance for its retail employees, Bloomberg reported. The move comes as online shopping has been more crucial for businesses nationwide, with many adopting e-commerce to expand during the pandemic, according to a survey from JPMorgan Chase.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Celia Young can be reached at cyoung@commercialobserver.com.