In a Thursday memo, Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s human resources and retail head, told employees that the Delta variant’s march across the U.S. had caused the company to further delay its corporate reopening to at least early 2022, but said that the company does not currently expect to shutter its retail stores, which began reopening in May 2020. The memo also strongly encouraged staffers to get vaccinated, although Apple does not currently mandate that its employees be inoculated against the virus, as some tech companies have recently done.
Apple — which just last month pushed its initial planned return to the office from September to October — signalled early on that it planned to be bullish on returning to physical office work, despite Silicon Valley’s generally cautious attitude about reopening its sprawling tech campuses. But as yet another rise in Covid-19 cases throughout the U.S. threatens to plunge the nation into uncertainty once again, the tech giant has seemingly retooled its approach in order to prioritise workers’ safety.
Unlike competitors like Facebook, which has given employees the option to continue working remotely or commit to working in the office around 50% of the time, and Google, which has embraced remote work indefinitely and signalled that it will adopt a hybrid work model going forward, Apple attempted to shift things back to full-time office work as early as spring 2021. Initially, the company said that it planned to have most of its workers return to its offices at least three days a week beginning in September, but became one of the first big tech companies to abandon those plans as new reports emerged about the highly contagious Delta variant emerged.
In-person work isn’t the only policy Apple has retooled in light of its Covid-19 concerns; as Bloomberg reports, the company reinstated its in-store mask mandate in July after revoking it in June, and also modified plans to reinstate in-store classes less than one day after they were first announced.