Just as some businesses start to envision a return to in-office work, the surge of a more transmissible Covid-19 variant is forcing many tech giants including Apple to hit the pause button once again.

Apple, under pressure from some employees worried about the surge in cases of the delta variant of the coronavirus, reportedly delayed reopening its offices by at least a month, to October at the earliest. It also recently required employees and customers to wear masks in more than half of its 520 U.S. retail stores.

Data from public-health officials indicate that the overwhelming majority of new Covid-19 infections are from unvaccinated individuals.

Apple will give employees at least a month’s advance notice before ordering a return to the office, according to Bloomberg News. The news service noted that the iPhone maker is the first tech giant to delay a return to “normalcy,” as cases of the highly transmissible Covid-19 mutation surge worldwide.

A month ago, Apple CEO Tim Cook warned workers that they should expect to return to the office by early September for at least three days a week, a decision that some employees opposed.

“In an internal memo at the time, Cook cited the availability of vaccinations and declining infection rates,” Bloomberg reported. “Some employees of the Cupertino, California-based technology giant have worked from Apple offices on certain days throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.”

An Apple spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment for this story. The company also did not respond to Bloomberg’s report.

Uber tweaks office-return plans

Uber will allow staff to work 100 percent remotely or choose an office different from their pre-pandemic location, revising an earlier plan that mandated that workers come to the office at least three days a week.

“We know certain jobs can be successful without being in an office, and this option can work well for some people,” Uber Chief People Officer Nikki Krishnamurthy wrote in a blog post. “We are establishing a process to apply to be fully remote if employees think that’s best for them.”

The ride-hailing service plans to hold “periodic” in-person meetings after its offices reopen so remote workers can meet their colleagues face to face to benefit from in-person interaction and collaboration, Krishnamurthy said.

LinkedIn shifts remote policy

Social-networking site LinkedIn also will allow employees to opt for full-time remote work or a hybrid option as offices gradually reopen, Reuters reported on July 29, citing Chief People Officer Teuila Hanson.

The move marks a shift from the company position last October when the company said it would expect employees to work from an office 50% of the time after pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Facebook and Google require vaccination for office workers

Facebook says it was the first major tech company to shut its doors when public-health officials declared the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. In June, the social-media platform said it expected to open most U.S. offices by early September and fully reopen in October.

On July 28, the company announced that it would require workers in its U.S. offices to be vaccinated (as has Google).

“The health and safety of our employees and neighbors in the community is our top priority,” Tracy Clayton, a Facebook spokesperson, said in a statement. “Data, not dates, is what drives our return-to-office thinking. We are primarily looking at local health data, with an emphasis on key metrics, including things like local case and vaccination rates, ICU capacity, local access to testing and therapeutics, as well as government guidance.”

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey declared last year that employees would be able to work at home for as long as they wanted, even after the end of the pandemic.

Dorsey’s view on remote working hadn’t changed even as the company began reopening its offices in San Francisco, where Twitter is based, and New York City in mid-July. On July 28, as Covid cases surged, Twitter closed these offices again.

“If our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home indefinitely or split their time between their home and the office, we will support that,” Twitter spokesperson Adrian Zamora said in an email. “This is about providing our employees with the flexibility to determine how and where they work best.”

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