Return to work? Not so fast: Google, Apple, other tech companies change course due to rising COVID-19 cases

After the long-awaited return-to-work plan finally seemed within reach, the recent surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant and breakthrough cases has prompted companies to change course and delay their return-to-work plans.

The modifications come as local, state and federal jurisdictions reimpose mask requirements and recommendations.

On July 22, Santa Clara County health officials recommended companies require employees be vaccinated, and this week, state and federal recommended everyone mask up in public spaces indoors, with vaccination mandates for some health care and government workers.

As of July 28, Google has decided to require its employees who work in their U.S. offices to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The tech-giant also announced its decision to delay employees returning to the office from the originally planned date in September to October 18.

According to a blog post written by CEO Sundar Pichai, the new vaccination policy will be rolled out within the coming weeks and will vary according to local conditions and regulations, and will not apply until vaccines are widely available in employees’ respective areas.

Facebook has decided to take a similar approach and will also require all of its employees who work in its U.S. offices to be fully vaccinated. The implementation of the policy will depend on the conditions and rules in particular areas.

Per an earlier announcement, Facebook is allowing employees at all levels of the company the option to request to work remotely full-time, even after the pandemic.

Meanwhile, Apple CEO Tom Cook told employees this week that they will not be expected to return to the office until October or beyond. This decision comes after telling workers earlier this summer to prepare to come back in September for at least three days a week with a hybrid work model in place.

Apple has also decided to resume mask mandates for customers and staff in most of its U.S. retail locations.