Omicron U-turn | Apple splashes cash on WFH supplies as COVID halts office return AGAIN

Apple splashes cash on WFH supplies as COVID halts office return AGAIN

Apple has given its US employees a huge cash bonus to support “work-from-home needs” after postponing plans for a full office return yet again, due to rising COVID rates.

As reported by Bloomberg, and later The Verge, the tech giant’s CEO, Tim Cook, announced the decision in an internal memo to staff this week. The company had originally intended for employees to return to its corporate offices in November, before pushing the date back to February 2022.

Now, according to the memo seen by Bloomberg, a new return-to-work date is “yet to be determined” as the Omicron variant continues to spread at rapid pace around the globe.

However, the memo also revealed that all US-based Apple staff, including retail workers, will be given a $1,000 bonus (approx. £750) to support “work-from-home needs”.

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The Verge has previously reported on Apple’s attempts to get corporate workers back into the office, which at times have been met with disapproval from the workforce.

The tech publication reported how the firm’s February 2022 return was intended to be part of a hybrid formula, which included the option for staff to work remotely for four weeks out of the year, to allow “more opportunity to travel, be closer to your loved ones, or simply shake up your routines,” according to an internal memo.

However, some Apple employees pushed back strongly against the plans, and wrote a letter to Cook, stating they wanted a more flexible policy that allowed anyone who wanted to work from home to do so.

Benefits of hybrid

Although this issue related to Apple’s US workers, the issue has sparked UK-based discussions about the feasibility of planning a full office return in the modern working era.

The solution, as many British firms have found, is to implement a long-term hybrid structure. In fact, new data from XpertHR recently revealed that a staggering 97% of UK organisations are currently implementing some form of hybrid working.

The data also found that 75% of organisations say that they have some employees who are reluctant to return to the office.

The hesitancy among colleagues was largely said to be due to personal preferences regarding continuing to work remotely and concerns regarding the number of COVID-19 cases in the local area.

Despite reluctance from some employees to return to the workplace, the data showcased a pivot towards some form of hybrid working for many organisations – which would require staff to flex between working from the office and from home.

For example, 29% of UK organisations said that they were implementing hybrid working for all employees, whilst 32% are implementing hybrid working for some employees, and enforcing office-based working for the remainder.

The study also found that just four per cent are not implementing hybrid working at all.

However, some research suggests that workers agree on the benefits of face-to-face working. And recently, Chancellor Rishi Sunak, who once worked for Goldman Sachs before embarking on a career in politics, told LinkedIn News he doubted he would have done as well if he had started his working life virtually.

"I doubt I would have had those strong relationships if I was doing my summer internship or my first bit of my career over Teams and Zoom” said Sunak, adding: "That's why I think for young people in particular, being able to physically be in an office is valuable”.

Last month, one in five professionals expressed anxiety about the prospect of missing out on both learning opportunities, and chances to progress when not in the office, according to a new report from Momentive.

How HR can implement hybrid working

Of course, for those moving to hybrid, this new mode of working will require careful consideration and will involve new things for HR and managers to grapple with. But, what does best practice look like in this area?

In a previous interview with HR Grapevine, David Wilkinson, Group HR Director at Premier Foods, shared his top advice for the people function when moving to a hybrid model of work.

His first tip centered around listening to colleagues and gaining their insights to find out what their needs are in the workplace.

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Wilkinson explained: “…run a feedback session or survey to find out what their needs and preferences are.”

On top of this, he said it’s also crucial to trust line managers and leaders with overseeing change.

“It’s also vital if taking a more flexible approach to trust leaders within the business to manage this change, while providing guidance and support to make the change a lasting success.”

WFH return should be easy for HR, expert insists

Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, said employers should be well placed to move back to working from home.

He explained: “Many businesses and their people have learned how to work remotely at scale and at speed during the pandemic so will be well placed to respond to this change in guidance.

“Reducing the number of people in workplaces when they can work from home is the sensible thing to do while infections are climbing and we’re still learning about omicron, keeping individuals safe and businesses staffed.

"Where people can only do their jobs from a place of work, flexibility on how and when they work can help to minimise exposure to other people.”

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