Apple sets office return deadline for staff and fires recruiters amid hiring slowdown

The company has been working towards getting its employees back in the office since last summer

Apple headquarters at Apple Park in Cupertino, California.  Getty / AFP
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Apple set a September 5 deadline for corporate employees to be in the office at least three days a week, marking its latest return attempt after Covid-19 surges delayed its plans several times.

The company will require employees to work from the office on Tuesdays, Thursdays and a regular third day that will be determined by individual teams. That is a shift from Apple’s original plan, which called for in-person work on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The company notified employees of the new approach on Monday.

The Cupertino, California-based tech giant has been working towards getting its employees back in the office since at least June 2021, when it first announced the three-day policy. But virus flare-ups forced the company to push back deadlines, leaving workers on a two-day-a-week schedule. The new policy will first take effect in Silicon Valley and then spread to other offices.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the updated deadline.

Apple has been making other Covid-19 adjustments. The new policy comes weeks after the company dropped its mask mandate in common areas of offices. Apple had removed such a requirement at individual desks several months ago.

The iPhone maker has been one of the most stringent technology companies when it comes to pushing employees back into the office, irking some staff, Bloomberg News has reported. Microsoft, Amazon, Alphabet’s Google and others have been more open to remote work in recent months.

It’s a busy time for Apple. The company is gearing up for an event in September to announce the iPhone 14 and new watches. It’s also preparing updated Macs and iPads for launch later this year.

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However, Apple has laid off many of its contract-based recruiters in the past week, as part of a push to rein in hiring and spending, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

About 100 contract workers were let go in a rare move for the world’s most valuable company, they said. The recruiters were responsible for hiring new employees for Apple, and the cuts underscore that a slowdown is under way at the company.

Workers laid off were told the cuts were made due to changes in Apple’s current business needs. Bloomberg first reported last month that the company was decelerating hiring after years of staffing up, joining many tech companies in hitting the brakes.

Chief executive Tim Cook confirmed during Apple’s earnings conference call that the company would be more “deliberate” in its spending, even as it keeps investing in some areas.

“We believe in investing through the downturn,” Mr Cook told analysts. “And so we’ll continue to hire people and invest in areas, but we are being more deliberate in doing so in recognition of the realities of the environment.”

Apple is still retaining recruiters who are full-time employees, and not all of its contractors were fired as part of the move.

An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the decision.

The move to lay off workers is unusual for the company, which employs more than 150,000 people. But it is far from alone in taking such a step. In recent months, Meta, Tesla, Microsoft, Amazon and Oracle have all eliminated jobs in the face of a tech spending slowdown.

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Updated: August 16, 2022, 8:44 AM
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