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Apple slows return to office, will let employees stay remote and require masks in common spaces

Apple is delaying moving forward on its hybrid return to work for office employees, saying in a memo seen by The Verge and (reported earlier by Bloomberg) that “we are extending the phase-in period of the pilot and maintaining two days a week in the office for the time being.” Employees who are in the current two-day-per-week pilot will have the option to once again work fully remote if they feel uncomfortable coming into the office,

In the memo, the company’s COVID-19 response team says that its updates are based on monitoring local info like test positivity and hospitalization rates. The memo also asks employees to go back to wearing masks when in common areas like meeting rooms, hallways, and elevators. The Bloomberg report added that, on Tuesday, retail employees in about 100 US stores were told they will again be required to wear a mask:

Based on current conditions, we have two updates to share:

First, we are temporarily asking team members to wear masks in common spaces, meeting rooms, hallways, and elevators—in general, all areas outside of your personal workspace.

Second, we are extending the phase-in period of the pilot and maintaining two days a week in the office for the time being. For those of you participating in the pilot, if you are uncomfortable coming into the office during this time, you have the option to work remotely. Please discuss your plans with your manager.

These changes are for your location and we’ll make changes to other locations as required. We’re continuing to monitor local data closely and are committed to providing at least two weeks notice of any changes.

The letter didn’t directly respond to requests made by the Apple Together group that wrote a letter protesting the hybrid plan, but additional flexibility in returning to the office (however temporary) is in line with what they were asking. CEO Tim Cook originally announced the new hybrid model nearly a year ago, but repeated spikes in COVID-19 infections delayed its start until earlier this year. Apple didn’t specifically go into the data and trends that caused this change, but the results seem worrying enough that it’s sticking with masking and additional flexibility for now.

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