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Apple delays plan for Bay Area workers to be in office three days a week

By Sara Ashley O’Brien, CNN Business

Apple notified corporate employees that it is delaying a requirement for most staffers to be in the office at least three days a week amid an increase in Covid-19 cases in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the company is based.

In a message to staffers obtained by CNN Business, Apple’s pandemic response team cited Covid-19 conditions as cause for delaying the plan, which was scheduled to take effect next week. The team indicated the update is for employees in Santa Clara Valley where Apple is headquartered.

“We’ll make changes to other locations as required,” the message said. “We’re continuing to monitor local data closely and are committed to providing at least two weeks notice of any changes.”

Apple declined to comment on the message. The news was first reported by Bloomberg News.

The move is the latest example of how large tech companies, which were among the first to shift to remote work in the early days of the pandemic, have faced challenges in bringing their employees back on a regular basis to the perk-filled campuses which they spent billions to build.

Apple’s hybrid return-to-work plan has been a source of tension among some employees since it was first announced last summer. After delays due to surges in Covid-19 cases in the fall and winter months, Apple started requiring most workers to be in the office at least once per week in April before upping the number to twice a week later that month.

In anticipation of the last phase of the pilot, which would have workers in the office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, a group of employees organizing under a newly-formed group known as Apple Together petitioned leadership publicly for more flexibility. Apple Together, which was formed to advocate for workers’ well-being and rights, called out a perceived disconnect between the company’s external marketing to customers — that its products allow people to “work from anywhere” — and its internal messaging to staffers.

“We are not asking for everyone to be forced to work from home,” the group wrote. “We are asking to decide for ourselves, together with our teams and direct manager, what kind of work arrangement works best for each one of us, be that in an office, work from home, or a hybrid approach.”

The petition has been signed by 1,445 current and former Apple employees to date. The company has not commented on its existence.

For now, Apple’s Bay Area employees will continue working in the office two days per week, with some added safety protocols. Apple said in the message to workers that it is temporarily asking people to wear masks when in common areas of the office such as meeting rooms, hallways and elevators.

Apple also told workers that if they are “uncomfortable coming into the office during this time, you have the option to work remotely. Please discuss your plans with your manager.”

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