Apple delays plans to require workers in the office three days a week

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Apple filed a policy that would have required workers to be in the office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, citing the growing wave of covid-19 cases for the latest delay in its large-scale return to in-person work.

The fixed three-day schedule – which many had disputed – was due to come into effect next week. Instead, employees will continue to follow the two-day regimen adopted under the company’s “hybrid work pilot,” according to information from Bloomberg News. Apple also told workers it was reinstating mask requirements for common areas.

Many of Apple’s 165,000 employees have been working remotely throughout the coronavirus pandemic, and like other large employers, the company has repeatedly postponed and reconfigured its return-to-work plans. But chief executive Tim Cook has insisted on the importance of in-person work and the company has criticized some employees for taking a more restrictive approach during the transition.

Google employees are back in the office three days a week, but some employees have had the option of working remotely indefinitely. Microsoft allows its employees to develop their own hybrid work models, with manager approval. Amazon has left it up to employees to decide where they work.

The question has become a flashpoint: A survey of 32,000 workers by the ADP Research Institute found that 64% of workers would consider quitting their jobs rather than returning to work.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request from The Washington Post for more details on the decision. According to Craft, the Cupertino, Calif.-based tech juggernaut has 29 offices in 27 countries.

In a letter to Apple executives in early May, employees alleged that the policy forcing workers back to the office was driven by “fear…of the future of work, fear of worker autonomy, fear of losing control. They argue that it would limit productivity and weaken diversity, making Apple “younger, whiter, more male-dominated, more neuro-normative, more fit.”

Even Apple has recognized the appeal of getting out of the office. In March, a month before the launch of its “Hybrid Working Pilot,” the company released a nearly nine-minute ad slot about a group of employees “escaping the clutches of their evil boss” and returning to work in quitting and creating a start-up using Apple products and software.

“We tell all of our customers how great our products are for remote work, but we ourselves can’t use them for remote work? How can we expect our customers to take this seriously,” the workers said in the letter to leaders. “How can we understand what remote working issues need to be addressed in our products, if we don’t live it?”

Office occupancy in 10 of the country’s major business centers, including Washington, D.C., New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, hit a pandemic-era high of 43.4% last week, according to data tracked by Kastle Systems.

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