Apple has indefinitely delayed its return-to-office plans for corporate employees as the Omicron coronavirus variant spreads through the US.
In a memo to staff first seen by Bloomberg, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the latest deferral was due to “rising cases in many parts of the world and the emergence of a new strain of the virus,” and urged employees to get vaccinations and booster shots. The date that staff will be required to return to physical workspaces is “yet to be determined,” Cook added.
According to the letter seen by The Verge, Apple is also giving all employees a bonus of $1,000, which they have been encouraged to put towards home-working equipment. “Keep in mind that when you return to the office, you’ll be bringing your Apple-owned equipment back, so you should consider what you’ll want for your home workspace,” Cook wrote in the letter.
The delay once again shifts Apple’s plans for corporate staff to return to the office.
As the Delta variant continued spreading over the summer, Apple deferred its return-to-office date until at least January 2022, but then delayed it again in November, saying staff would be able to return to physical workspaces from 1 February.
At the time, Apple said it was testing a “hybrid work pilot” whereby workers would come to the office one or two days per week. The company aims to let most employees work from home up to twice a week, on Wednesday and Friday.
Cook said in the memo that Apple’s offices remained open and that many employees were coming in regularly, including its teams in China and elsewhere.
“As we look forward to more of our teams being together again, we will continue to make decisions based on local conditions and will be sure to notify you at least four weeks before beginning the pilot,” wrote Cook.
The decision was taken as the US faces a surge in COVID-19 cases and the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, which the CDC has found in California and the majority of states.
Apple earlier this month closed several US retail stores after staff at some locations tested positive for COVID-19. Apple has also mandated staff wear masks in all of its US stores.