Return to work

Friday water cooler: How goes your RTO?

A spike in Covid cases in California’s Bay Area has forced Apple to delay its controversial RTO plans. Are you experiencing a similar situation?
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.

In the return-to-office recurring nightmare that many of us continue to call “life,” HR leaders across the country might feel as if they’re driving down a sunny road with corporate HQ in sight just over the next hill, only for a giant coronavirus spore to fall from the sky and obliterate the road, detouring all traffic back to square one.

It’s RTO déjà vu all over again for companies navigating the slippery slope of funneling workers back into offices, with the plans of one particular tech giant hitting a familiar snag: Apple is delaying plans to mandate attendance at their Cupertino, California, HQ at least three days a week starting May 23, following a rise in Covid cases in the Bay Area, Bloomberg reported. (The New York Times is also delaying its RTO, originally scheduled for June, the paper’s City Hall bureau chief Emma G. Fitzsimmons tweeted on Wednesday.)

For “the time being,” Apple is requiring office attendance twice a week and implementing additional safety protocols, such as masks in common areas, according to an internal memo reviewed by Bloomberg. The memo, which was also obtained by The Verge, said that for workers who are “uncomfortable coming into the office during this time, you have the option to work remotely. Please discuss your plans with your manager.”

Apple initially planned to ease its workforce back into the office on a gradual timeframe, with employees reporting to its “Mothership” campus once a week by April 11, twice a week three weeks later, and then, finally, at least three times a week by May 23.

But the plan didn’t sit well with a group of Apple employees, who publicly challenged the RTO directive in a letter to company leadership. The group, Apple Together, wrote: “Stop trying to control how often you can see us in the office. Trust us, we know how each of our small contributions helps Apple succeed and what’s required to do so.”

The company’s chief of machine learning, Ian Goodfellow, resigned in protest of the RTO plans, The Verge’s Zoë Schiffer reported earlier this month.

Hey you, yes, you, in the back! Have your return-to-office plans been repeatedly thwarted by each new Covid variant and subvariant? How are your employees reacting to the perpetual uncertainty? We want to know how this issue is unfolding far away from the hallowed halls of Apple’s Cupertino campus.

Join the discussion here on HR Brew’s LinkedIn page, or reply to this email with your thoughts.

HR is challenging. HR news doesn’t have to be.

HR Brew keeps you effective in the fast-changing business environment.