As Silicon Valley and the rest of the nation begin the slow journey back toward a semblance of pre-pandemic life, ever-shifting health and safety protocols in California and beyond have created starkly different rules in offices as employees begin to trickle back.
Corporations must strike a balance between lingering COVID-19 concerns with their business plans and their workers’ desire for normalcy, as the Delta variant spreads and changes the direction of the pandemic. The latest local guidance provides a little wiggle room: Eight San Francisco Bay Area counties on Friday recommended mask-wearing indoors regardless of vaccination status as a precautionary measure amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, but stayed just short of a mandate.
The starkest decisions so far have come from the two companies whose employees have been the most vocal about misgivings in returning to their cavernous campuses. Apple Inc.
Apple did not respond to email seeking comment.
Google parent Alphabet Inc.
Such are the dilemmas facing companies that must calculate business interests with the well-being of their employees. In the cases of Apple and Google, both have enormous real estate holdings that have gone largely unused for more than 17 months. Those contacted by MarketWatch said they were complying with Cal-OSHA guidelines, which seemingly change by the week, adding to the anxiety of a bewildered workforce and management.
The public health department for Santa Clara County — the Bay Area county home to Google and Apple — deferred MarketWatch’s questions to Santa Clara County Public Health. The county, in turn, said it has “provided public guidance to all residents and employers within our community on use of face coverings, available here https://covid19.sccgov.org/news-releases/pr-07-16-2021-bay-area-counties-recommend-masking-indoors-for-everyone. We will continue to issue guidance and recommendations to employers in our community, as we have done throughout the pandemic.”
Against ever-changing rules and the uncertainty of some vaccination reliability amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, tech companies — among the largest employers in the San Francisco Bay Area — are navigating as best they can.
At Facebook Inc.
Similarly, Adobe Inc.
For now, Twilio Inc.
Of course, the easiest solution may be the work-at-home model — something that many startups are embracing. Coefficient, a Bay Area-based software-as-a-service company that connects spreadsheets to corporate systems internally at Uber Technologies Inc. UBER, Workday Inc. WDAY and Spotify Technology SPOT , has taken the path of least resistance: All of its dozen employees work remotely. It has no office.