Apple is in no hurry to welcome back its workers to the office, thanks to the pandemic that has refused to go away. The Cupertino company is also helping out its staff with a one-time $1,000 bonus each.
Apple had earlier fixed February 1st as the date to reopen its offices. However, due to the resurgence in Covid-19 cases and the emergence of a fast-spreading new variant of the virus, the deadline is now moved to a date yet to be determined.
This change in plan isn’t the first one, as Apple had pushed forward the date more than once as it struggled to balance workers’ safety with workplace efficiency. It wanted to return to office in June, but postponed to September, then to October, and to January.
Other tech companies pushing back their office resumption dates include Google, Lyft, Uber, and Amazon.
The decision to postpone indefinitely was announced by CEO Tim Cook in a memo sent to staff. In the memo, Cook wrote, “We are delaying the start of our hybrid work pilot to a date yet to be determined. Our offices remain open and many of our colleagues are coming in regularly, including our teams in Greater China and elsewhere.”
Citing the reasons for the delay, he mentioned “rising cases in many parts of the world and the emergence of a new strain of the virus.” Cook also encouraged his workers to get vaccinated and even take booster shots if necessary as it is the best way to protect themselves and their families.
Apple is notably not enforcing vaccination as its rival Google plans to do by firing staffers that refuse to get vaccinated after a series of warnings that include pay cuts.
In the same memo, Cook communicated Apple would give every employee, including retail workers, $1,000. The purpose is to help with some of the costs that come with working from home. “These funds are intended to help you with your home workspace and can be used as you see fit. You will be receiving more information about this shortly.”
Google and Facebook (now known as Meta) had also given their workers $1,000 each to assist with home-work related expenses.
Cook also said workers would get at least four weeks of notice before they have to return to the office. Even when they return, they would have to appear in the office for only three days out of five, being Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. If their teams can accommodate, the staff can work from home on the remaining days.
However, many units within Apple have been using the flexible-work model for more than a year. They include the hardware engineering employees that require equipment at Apple facilities to do their work.
Apple’s decision comes shortly after the US reached the saddening milestone of 800,000 deaths related to Covid-19, according to reports from the Johns Hopkins’ Coronavirus Resource center. Yet, cases continue to rise in the country and parts of Canada, with Canada urging its residents not to travel out of the country.
Apple recently mandated all staff and customers at its US retail stores to wear masks, about a month after lifting the mandate for more than 100 of its stores in the country. “We regularly monitor conditions and we will adjust our health measures in stores to support the wellbeing of customers and employees,” the company said.
In addition to reinstating the masking policy, Apple has closed its stores in Miami, Annapolis, and Ottawa. All the workers attached to the three stores will be tested for the virus before they reopen.