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Apple to summon staff back to the office in September

You don't spend $5bn on a shiny glass Ive-designed HQ and leave it empty

Tim Cook has issued a memo to Apple staffers warning that their days of shirking-from-home in the pandemic are over. From early September, employees will be expected to spend at least three days a week in the office, with Wednesdays and Fridays open to remote working for some.

The iGiant CEO said the decision to pick specific in-office days would “help us optimize our time for in-person collaboration,” although noted selected teams will have to attend in-person for a larger proportion of the week.

As a peace offering, employees will be given two weeks a year to work remotely to “be closer to family and loved ones, find a change of scenery, manage unexpected travel, or a different reason of all your own,” Cook said in the memo, which was obtained by The Verge.

Although various organisations have opted to keep remote working for the indefinite future, Cook argued purely online interactions are a poor substitute for in-person meetings.

“For all that we’ve been able to achieve while many of us have been separated, the truth is that there has been something essential missing from this past year: each other,” he wrote to staff. “Video conference calling has narrowed the distance between us, to be sure, but there are things it simply cannot replicate.”

Silicon Valley's mixed response

Apple cited its growing confidence in the coronavirus vaccine rollout, as well as declining COVID-19 cases in the United States, as factors behind the move.

According to the most recent CDC data, 41 per cent of the US population has been fully vaccinated, with 51.8 per cent having at least one dose. Excluding those under the age of 18, that number rises to 63 per cent of adults with at least one dose.

President Biden has set a goal to give 70 per cent of the US adult population at least one dose by the July 4 Independence Day holiday.

A year ago The Reg predicted corporations would reverse the work-from-home trend by mid-2022: in reality, Apple and others are bringing back the commute and in-office working this fall.

Last month, Google said it would allow 20 per cent of its employees to work remotely; 80 per cent will be on site for at least a few days a week or in new office locations. It previously aimed for a staggered return to the office by September. Facebook expects at least half of its workforce to telecommute for the next five to ten years, while Twitter has said it will allow remote working “forever.”

In San Francisco, office real estate prices and activity has plummeted. With office real estate a major cost, and housing notoriously expensive, a switch to remote working is attractive to both employers and employees.

It’s proven less favorable to those living in once-affordable towns like Boise, Idaho and Bozeman, Montana, where the SF Bay Area's Patagonia-clad refugees have caused real estate prices to soar. ®

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