COVID-19 throws off Apple's return-to-office plan yet again

COVID-19 throws off Apple’s return-to-office plan yet again

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Apple leases new offices near to Apple Park
Getting employees back in Apple Park isn't going smoothly.
Photo: Duncan Sinfield

Apple reportedly slowed the pace at which it will require its corporate employees to return to the office. They were scheduled to be back at their desks three days a week starting later this month, but rising numbers of COVID-19 cases supposedly pushed that back.

Apple employees are still required to be in the offices two days a week.

Apple slows employees’ return to office

Apple’s insistence that its employees return to the office has met with protest from some workers, along with threats to resign. How widespread dissatisfaction goes remains unclear. But it has the potential to disrupt the company while it’s developing iOS 16 and macOS 13, along with future iPhones and other hardware.

During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Apple allowed most corporate employees to work from home. But when the case counts dropped earlier this year, Apple made a schedule of when it expected workers back in Apple Park and other corporate offices.

The plan included employees returning for one day a week, and later two days a week. (Those mandates are already in place.) A requirement for three days a week was going to kick in soon, but is now reportedly on hold.

“Apple is delaying its three-day per week office return deadline on rising Covid cases,” according to a post by Bloomberg‘s Mark Gurman on Twitter. “Was planned for May 23rd. No new date set.”

He also notes that Apple is again requiring masks in office common areas.

Still, the iPhone-maker has made tremendous progress in its return-to-office hopes. It spent much of 2021 unsuccessfully trying to get its employees back to working in person. It originally planned to bring some staff back last May. But when that couldn’t happen, it set dates in September and then October of last year. They were then pushed back to January, then February 2022.

COVID-19 a rising problem in Silicon Valley

In recent weeks, the San Francisco Bay Area has become a COVID-19 hotspot. “The Bay Area now has California’s highest COVID infection rates,” according to a statement from Santa Clara County’s public health department. Apple Park is located in Santa Clara County.

But while case counts trend upward in Silicon Valley, they remain far below where they were during the omicron surge of early 2022. That helps explain why Apple has only slowed its return-to-office plan, not reversed it.