Apple has postponed its plans to return to the office for at least a month in response to the recent surge in coronavirus cases caused by the spread of the Delta variant.
The company informed employees on Monday that they are now expected to return to the office on October 1 instead of early September. The company said the date could shift further depending on how the virus spreads and that employees will be notified at least a month before they are expected to return, according to an email Apple sent to employees and viewed by The New York Times.
“As the situation evolves, we’ve committed to the same measured approach we’ve been taking all along,” the email said.
Some employees, such as those who build hardware, have already returned to the Apple offices. At the beginning of the pandemic, Apple closed many of its retail stores, but these have since reopened. Apple’s return to work policy applies to all offices, including those in California, Texas, and New York.
Apple declined to comment further. As of September, the company had 147,000 full-time employees. Bloomberg reported earlier the changed return date.
Like many companies, Apple has postponed the return date of its employees several times, but is one of the first large corporations to react to the spread of the Delta variant.
Throughout the pandemic, Silicon Valley has been at the forefront of the remote working trend, with tech companies like Twitter and Facebook being among the first to order employees to work from home in early 2020. Many tech companies ended up choosing to work remotely on a permanent basis.
But Apple has been more resilient to the loss of its personal office culture, which has created some friction among employees who want to continue working from home. An in-house Slack channel called Remote Work Advocates has grown from around 1,800 in June to around 6,500, according to Cher Scarlett, an Apple security engineer who helped write the group’s letters to management.
In June, about 1,800 workers signed a letter to Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, saying that pushing people back into the office would encourage some people to leave the company. On Monday, some Slack Group employees published a second letter to management suggesting more flexible arrangements for remote working. Tech news sites The Verge and Recode had previously reported on the letters.
“Basically everyone wanted to feel heard and have more transparency and flexibility, as we see it with other companies the size of Apple,” said Scarlett.