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While many other tech companies have decided to extend their work-from-home policies for several more months, it looks like Apple is breaking ranks and preparing to begin returning its corporate employees back to its Apple Park campus and other major offices around the world.
According to Bloomberg, Apple has begun laying out a plan that will see key employees return to the workplace in phases over the next few months, beginning with staff members who are unable to work remotely for various reasons, as well as those who are “facing challenges working from home.”
In fact, it looks like the first phase has already begun in some regions around the globe, and will expand to all major offices by early June. In addition to its massive Apple Park campus, Apple also has corporate offices in New York, Los Angeles, Austin Texas, San Diego, and Boulder Colorado, all of which are said to be included in the first phase of the plan.
Apple managers have already begun to inform employees who are in the first phase of the plan as to when they’ll be expected to return to work, and whether they’ll be expected to work from the office regularly or only during certain periods, which will depend on each employee’s specific roles and responsibilities.
A second phase that will begin in July will see even more Apple employees return to work, although it’s not yet clear what groups or teams will be included in that phase, it’s expected to be those focused on hardware development, since this requires more hands-on work in Apple’s secretive labs, especially for more clandestine initiatives like Apple’s AR/VR headset.
On the flip side, Bloomberg notes that Apple’s software developers have basically settled in to working from home and will not need to be on-site for the virtual WWDC next month. Instead, Apple engineers have already begun filming their demonstrations from home for the planned software updates and lab sessions that will make up the annual developers conference.
To be clear, Apple’s offices haven’t been shut down completely, as Bloomberg notes that key employees have still needed to work on-site to effectively keep the lights on, including business critical functions like managing the data centers, deploying software, and putting up new products for sale online; tasks that are more difficult or even impossible to accomplish remotely from home.
Back in April, Tim Cook told employees in a virtual Town Hall meeting that Apple would be following a staggered plan to return employees to work, saying that “We don’t envision, at least today, everyone going back at the same time,” while also making it clear that employees would be coming back soon, however. Cook also added that the process would include temperature checks, social distancing, and masks, and said that Apple is looking into offering COVID-19 testing for its workers.
Apple’s move comes in stark contrast to rivals such as Twitter, which announced this week that its employees can keep on working from home forever if the want to. Meanwhile, other big tech companies like Facebook and Google have said that most of their employees can work from home until at least the end of 2020, while Amazon has set a return date of early October for its office workers. Of course, none of these companies produce hardware products to nearly the same extent that Apple does, although they probably do have a handful of employees in those divisions who will need to return sooner rather than later.