Apple Delays And Modifies Its Return To Office Plans

Apple, in a blow to its efforts to restore normalcy to its operations, has suspended its requirement that employees return to the office this month for at least three days a week because of a resurgence of COVID-19 cases, The New York Times reported.

According to The New York Times, the reversal was welcome news for thousands of employees who pushed back against the company’s demand that they begin coming to the office three days a week in early May. Earlier this month, the group which calls itself “Apple Together” published a letter calling on the executive team to allow for a hybrid and flexible work schedule, saying they could collaborate remotely using online tools such as Slack and spare themselves hours of commuting.

Personally, I’m not surprised by this change. Apple has a history of changing its COVID policy based on its assessment of what is the right thing to do. For example, in June of 2021, Apple chose to loosen its face mask requirement in Apple Stores as part of its COVID-19 policies in the United States.

Previously, in December of 2020, Apple closed all 53 of its locations in California. In May of 2020, it started gradually reopening stores in South Carolina, Alabama, and Alaska. Later, it began reopening stores with COVID-19 safety measures. In June of 2020, Apple closed 11 stores in Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona out of an abundance of caution. The decisions are made by Apple depended upon the number of COVID cases in a particular area.

9to5Mac noted that, as first reported by Bloomberg, Apple is still requiring employees to work in-person two days per week, but it will not ramp that up to three days per week on May 23 as originally planned.The company is delaying that requirement.

The Verge reported that Bloomberg retail employees in about 100 Apple stores were told that they will again be required to wear a mask.

9to5Mac reported the changes to Apple’s plans come as COVID-19 cases have once again started to increase in the United States and other countries. Hospitalizations are also increasing but at a much slower pace, according to data compiled by The New York Times.

Personally, I think the changes made by Apple are a step in the right direction. Requiring employees to wear masks in Apple stores, and also requiring employees at Apple to wear masks in common spaces (such as meeting rooms and elevators) can help stop the spread of COVID.

The problem I see with Apple’s plan is that it doesn’t really do much to protect workers who are immunocompromised. As someone who is part of that group, I understand how scary it can be to walk into a building that lacks the proper amount of air filtration to keep people like me safe.