Apple has chosen February 1 as the deadline for corporate employees to start their return to offices, a slight delay from its previous goal of January, marking a key step towards getting its operations back to normal after the pandemic.
Starting at the beginning of February, the company will adopt a phased return, chief executive Tim Cook told staff via email on Thursday. For the first month, some teams will be required to come into the office one or two days a week. After that “transitional period”, staff will be required to come in at least three days per week, including Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The plan is more aggressive than what some of Apple’s technology peers are pursuing, with numerous companies offering more flexible arrangements or letting employees work from home indefinitely. But Apple puts a particular premium on in-person work, and its home base in Cupertino, California, is one of Silicon Valley’s most iconic headquarters.
The company will allow some teams to work remotely on Wednesdays and Fridays, Mr Cook said, reiterating a plan that was announced earlier. He did, however, say that working remotely those two days would only apply to “eligible teams”.
“A number of teams have a greater need to work in person,” Mr Cook said, adding that those groups will be required to work from the office four or five days a week.
An Apple spokesman declined to comment.
Mr Cook added that many international sites have already returned to the office and that half of Silicon Valley employees have begun coming in at some point weekly. Mr Cook also said that Apple will offer some teams up to one month each year of remote work, in addition to the two days per week. That’s an increase from a previously promised two weeks.
Mr Cook said employee health remains the company’s priority and that Apple could again delay its return-to-work plans or make other changes around masks and social-distancing requirements. Mr Cook strongly encouraged employees to get vaccinated, but did not impose a mandate. Apple said unvaccinated employees in offices will need to test for Covid-19 as often as every day.
Apple previously said it would begin its office return in January, but a resurgent pandemic has turned the deadline into a moving target. Earlier, it aimed for June, September and October of this year.