Apple to offer coronavirus testing for staff returning to offices

Apple to offer coronavirus testing for staff returning to offices

Apple Inc. employees heading back to work at the company’s headquarters in Silicon Valley will face new realities in the COVID-19 era, such as optional testing for the virus, closed kitchens and a requirement to wear masks.

Apple began bringing some workers in to the main Apple Park office in May, including some hardware and software engineers. When they arrive, they’ll have the option of taking a nasal-swab test to check for the virus, according to people familiar with the process. Temperature checks are required.

As the building gradually reopens, some employees are working from the Apple campus only a few days a week.

Apple is also limiting the number of people allowed in confined spaces at its offices. For example, as few as two are permitted in elevators at the same time, which normally would fit as many as 10 employees. The company has also closed many breakroom kitchens and has posted signs asking employees to wear masks.

The Apple campus in Cupertino, California, has several open floor work areas where staff members are used to working in close proximity, but the company will need to make changes to that layout in order to bring back the rest of its workforce. An Apple spokesman declined to comment.

In a sign of a return to normalcy, some members of the company’s executive team have returned to the main campus instead of working from home. Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s head of retail and human resources, for example, sent her most recent video update to staff from Apple Park.

Many large US corporations are rethinking how to get thousands of employees safely back to work before a vaccine is widely available. Testing is seen as one way to help control the spread of the disease, as is limiting the number of people in spaces and wearing masks.

Some Silicon Valley rivals, including Facebook Inc., recently told staff they won’t be offering testing in the near future, though the company has extended remote work through the end of the year, except for those developing critical hardware, which will return sooner. Inc. is offering tests to workers at some warehouses, while employees at the company’s Seattle headquarters expect testing to be done when staff returns in early October.

Facebook has also said it would “aggressively hire remote workers and that as much as half of its staff could eventually be remote. But Apple has long prioritized in-person meetings and hands-on product development, and its central business is hardware, which is less conducive to off-site work.

Still, the company has taken the pandemic seriously and acted quickly to protect its staff and the public, shuttering all of its retail stores at different points this year to help curb the spread of the virus. It has since reopened more than half of its stores globally.

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