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Apple's plans to return to the office delayed indefinitely

Employees were scheduled to begin returning to the office by February 2022

Apple CEO Tim Cook clapping in front of a crowd of workers at the opening event of the new Apple store at The Grove in Los Angeles, California

Apple has scrapped its plans to return to the office indefinitely, having previously delayed its reopening until 1 February.

This is according to an internal memo sent by CEO Tim Cook on Wednesday, Bloomberg reported, citing the emergence of the new Omicron variant.

The memo comes just weeks after the company asked employees to begin returning to the office by February 2022 as part of a hybrid work pilot that required workers to be in the office two days a week before moving up to three in March 2022. Cook first announced the hybrid work model in June 2021, with the company previously aiming for a September 2021 return to the office.

On Wednesday, Cook said that Apple is “delaying the start of our hybrid work pilot to a date yet to be determined”.

The decision had been made due to “rising cases in many parts of the world and the emergence of a new strain of the virus”.

Although employees can continue to work from home, the iPhone manufacturer’s offices will “remain open”, allowing employees to come into the office if they wish.

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“Many of our colleagues are coming in regularly, including our teams in Greater China and elsewhere,” Cook stated, before advising employees to receive COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots, saying that “this is by far the best way to keep you and your community safe”.

All Apple employees, including retail workers, will also receive a $1,000 bonus that may be used for home office equipment, with Cook stating that it’s “in support of our commitment to a more flexible environment”.

“These funds are intended to help you with your home workspace and can be used as you see fit. You will be receiving more information about this shortly,” he added.

Apple’s return to the office has been moved back multiple times, with the spread of COVID-19 in the US delaying plans for October 2020 and January 2021 returns.

The news comes after a Google memo revealed that staff members who fail to report their vaccination status or apply for a medical or religious exemption will be placed on leave and even terminated, as the tech giant prepares for its repeatedly-delayed return to the office on 10 January 2022.

Last week, UK leaders urged people to work from home following the rise of the Omicron variant of COVID-19. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has asked for people in Scotland to work from home until the middle of January, while Prime Minister Boris Johnson advised people to work from home where possible.

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