Apple Suspends Thrice-Weekly In-Office Requirement for Workers Amid COVID Surge

Apple has suspended plans to bring workers back to its Cupertino, California, headquarters three days a week, due to COVID-19 cases surging again in the state.

Instead, the tech giant will temporarily stick with employees coming into the office twice a week, although it’s unknown if that request will be enforced in the interim. 

The three-days-a-week model was slated to begin next Monday, according to Bloomberg News. Within that structure, Apple would have required employees to visit the office Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. 

Citing that same report, Apple employees recently received a company memo, stating that the delay would be “for the time being,” and didn’t include a new start date.

The three-days-a-week mandate had apparently been a source of contention within the Apple family. 

Ian Goodfellow, former director of machine learning at Apple, made national headlines earlier this month when he quit in protest of Apple’s upgraded in-office request.

In his resignation note, Goodfellow insisted that office “flexibility” was best for his team. 

“I believe strongly that more flexibility would have been the best policy for my team,” Goodfellow said, according to The Verge. 

Goodfellow wasn’t the only Apple employee dissatisfied with the new office requirement. According to Fortune magazine, a survey of workers conducted April 13-19 found that 67% were “dissatisfied” with the bolstered return-to-office policy.

Citing The New York Times, the state of California has incurred a 37% spike in coronavirus cases from the daily average of two weeks ago.

Of course, in this era of COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics being readily available to all Californians, it remains to be seen whether the coronavirus surge will lead to an increase in hospitalizations or deaths.

Either way, the COVID-19 uptick was enough for Apple to suspend its three-days-a-week requirement.

Apple CEO Tim Cook believes that  a hardware-focused company, such as Apple, should have its employees working on-site — especially in departments where physical construction of products and prototypes is necessary.

In March, Cook reportedly wrote to employees, “In the coming weeks and months, we have an opportunity to combine the best of what we have learned about working remotely with the irreplaceable benefits of in-person collaboration.”

A number of employees, however, countered by saying working remotely had improved their own work-life balance.  

“Everything happened with us working from home all day, and now we have to go back to the office, sit in traffic for two hours, and hire people to take care of kids at home,” a former Apple employee anonymously told Bloomberg last month.

“Working from home has so many perks. Why would we want to go back?”

Also, in an open letter to Apple executives, bearing the signature of more than 1,000 employees, the group signatories wrote:  

“We tell all of our customers how great our products are for remote work, yet we ourselves, cannot use them to work remotely? How can we expect our customers to take that seriously? How can we understand what problems with remote work need solving in our products if we don’t live it?”

Apple reportedly posted revenue earnings of $97.3 billion last quarter — its third-best fiscal quarter in the company’s 46-year history.


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