The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

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

The tech giant also reinstates mask requirements for common areas, citing a rise in coronavirus cases.

Apple has put off plans to have workers back in the office three days a week. Shown is the Apple Park campus in Cupertino, Calif. (Sam Hall/Bloomberg News)
3 min

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

The fixed three-day schedule — which many had taken issue with — was supposed to take effect next week. Instead employees will continue to follow the two-day regimen adopted as part of the company’s “Hybrid Working Pilot,” according to reporting 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 major employers, the company has repeatedly postponed and reconfigured its return-to-work plans. But chief executive Tim Cook has been vocal about the importance of in-person work and the company has taken heat from some employees for taking a more restrictive approach in the transition back.

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

The issue has become a flashpoint: A survey of 32,000 workers by the ADP Research Institute found that 64 percent of workers would consider quitting their jobs over return- to-office mandates.

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

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

Even Apple has acknowledged the allure of breaking 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 their evil boss’s clutches” and the return-to-office work by 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, yet, we ourselves, cannot use them to work remotely? How can we expect our customers to take that seriously,” workers said in the letter to executives. “How can we understand what problems of remote work need solving in our products, if we don’t live it?”

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