Apple says (almost): "If you want to collaborate, stay away"

Apple says (almost): "If you want to collaborate, stay away"

Apple has made a decision that should show most businesses that when it comes to COVID-19, it's not over until it's over. The company reportedly postponed plans for staff to return to the office three days a week due to rising infection rates.

Living with COVID means taking it seriously

A Bloomberg report over the weekend tells us that full implementation of Apple's initial three days a week in-person plan is likely "not imminent." The report suggests that the company is experiencing rising infection rates among its workforce. If Apple is experiencing this, then you're not alone.

At the start of the pandemic, Apple's retail stores became guides to local infection rates. The company's planetary network of stores has given Apple's human resources teams a global view of outbreaks. Journalists have followed Apple Store closures as a guide to disease clusters.

Apple still has access to this information today, which means its decision to suspend its back-to-office dictum should be seen for what it is: a sign that the disease hasn't abated.

Of course, we have to identify a way to live with COVID, but that also means taking it seriously. Magical thinking won't make the disease go away, but smart work practices, staggered travel patterns and investments in air filtration systems could help mitigate its impact.

Apple's decision to suspend progress on the return to the office shows that the company accepts this reality. At least I think so.

A warning you should heed

Apple had chosen to adopt a hybrid work model in which employees go to the office three days a week and work remotely for two. He began asking workers to return to the office one day a week on April 11, two days from May 4, and intended to increase to three days on May 23. Employees are currently expected to be present two days a week, but the change to three has been delayed.

Like everyone else, not all Apple employees have been able to work remotely during the pandemic. Some of his teams have continued to work in person for most of the past two years.

But the decision to delay a company-wide return should surely be taken seriously by companies hoping to see employees return to the office, as Apple data shows the risk of doing so remains high. As his colleague Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols points out, this is broadly consistent with what health professionals tell us, from epidemiologist Michael Osterholm's warning to the Washington Post to this observation by Independent SAGE, a group of UK scientists. : "Closing your eyes and pretending there aren't any is the most dangerous strategy of all."

If you value collaboration, stay away

Given that the risks of COVID-19 can include months of mental and physical decline that prevent sufferers from working effectively for months, a company that values ​​collaboration and creative intelligence cannot logically insist that its teams be exposed to such risk.

The last thing Apple, or anyone else, needs is for key personnel to be out for months at a time, especially when the consequences of a forced return are so obvious and any company committed to social responsibility also has a duty to protect the psychological health of the employee. staff. and physical health.

Think about it. What's to be gained from the mythical "water cooler conversations" if there's no one to put those ideas into action? Just ask the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine. This means that if your workplace values ​​collaboration, it's time to figure out how to collaborate effectively when you're apart.

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