Apple Park Gradually Reopens, Here’s What the New Normal Will Look Like

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Last month, we heard early reports that Apple was preparing to call its staff back to work, and while some of that was later called into question — particularly the implication that Apple would be forcing workers to return to the Apple Park campus — it certainly seemed clear enough that as social distancing restrictions begin to relax, Apple was making preparations to at least allow those team members who are unable to effectively work from home to come back into the office.

Now we’re getting a clearer picture of exactly what life is going to be like at Apple Park for those working there on what many hope will soon be a post-pandemic world, thanks to a new report from Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman, who also shared Apple’s initial re-staffing plans last month.

Apple Park has traditionally been a very open and welcoming working environment, with tons of employee amenities ranging from fitness centers to cafes and simple relaxation areas, however it’s probably not going to come as a surprise that it may lose much of its charm in the COVID-19 era, as many facilities will have to remain closed down, and employees will naturally be required to wear masks.

According to Gurman, Apple already allowed some workers to return last month, including some hardware and software engineers, and temperature checks are already mandatory for everyone entering the building, as are masks. Apple is also offering workers the option of testing for the virus when they arrive via nasal-swab checks, but this won’t be a requirement.

The reopening process remains a gradual one, with employees working on staggered schedules. Many are only in the office a couple of days a week, working from home the rest of the time, and Apple is limiting the number of people who are allowed in confined spaces. For example, elevators that could fit as many as 10 employees are being limited to only two people at a time. Most of the break-room kitchens have also been closed, and naturally none of the cafes have been reopened either at this point.

Apple is also reportedly making changes to the layout of its open floor work areas in order to limit the number of employees who regularly work in close proximity before the rest of its workforce returns.

Executives Returning

Some members of the Apple senior executive team have also returned to performing their regular duties at the main campus, including Apple’s Senior VP of Retail and People, Deirdre O’Brien, who appears to be leading by example and providing hope for a return to more normal operations after recording her most recent video update to staff from Apple Park.

It’s less clear which other executives have been back at Apple Park, although it’s likely most of the senior leadership have at least been making regular appearances even if they’re still working primarily from home.

While many other big tech companies have extended the amount of time that employees can work from home — some are even making it a permanent option — Apple is in a much more unique situation that primarily software-focused companies like Twitter, Facebook, and even Google. In Apple’s case, there are simply certain jobs that can’t be done from home due to the need to test physical hardware devices, often using equipment that simply isn’t available or transportable outside of Apple’s labs — and this isn’t even factoring in the company’s penchant for secrecy.

However, despite the earlier implications that Apple was being more insistent that at least some team members return to work, several other sources have refuted this claim, suggesting that while Apple’s managers are certainly planning out how to bring people back, there’s really no pressure for anybody to return — at least not from within Apple’s management team.

In fact, sources suggest that management at Apple is encouraging users to continue working from home as long as they’re able to do so, but at the same time making plans to reopen Apple Park for those who simply can’t do their jobs from home, either due to the nature of their work, or due to not having a conducive home environment. By every indication, Apple’s approach to its corporate employees hasn’t been any different from the approach its taken on the retail side, where it was the first major retailer to proactively shut down all 458 of its stores outside of China back in March, even in places where there was no legal requirement to do so, while also continuing to pay every one of its 70,000 retail employees.

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