Essential Enemy
by Victor Johnson

The O’Brien memos addressing COVID-19

Apple’s SVP of Retail + People Deirdre O’Brien over the course of nine days:

April 2nd:

Thank you to all our teams for staying connected, supporting one another, and keeping our Apple family the innovative and compassionate team it’s always been – in good times and challenging ones.

I first want to share an update on Apple’s COVID-19 response here in the US. At this time, we anticipate that flexible work arrangements will remain in place for all offices, and all Retail stores will remain closed, until early May. We are continuing to monitor local conditions for every Apple facility on a daily basis, and we will make our reopening decisions on the basis of thorough, thoughtful reviews and the latest guidance from local governments and public health experts. As always, you can check the People site for the latest information.

I also want to recognize our COVID-19 Response Team, which is doing an amazing job evaluating how COVID-19 affects everyone at Apple and making sure we take every step to protect the health and safety of our communities. The executive team is meeting daily and closely coordinating with teams across the company, and together, we’re navigating a public health crisis that affects every place and every person differently.

Wherever you are, I want to underscore that Apple’s focus is on supporting you. Whether it’s caring for a sick loved one, caring for a child, or a health challenge you’re facing – our goal is to make sure everyone has the flexibility, the support system and the resources to stay well, mind and body. We know many parents are balancing homeschooling with working, and our teams are working on options to make sure parents have the support and the flexibility to adjust their schedules as needed. We’re encouraging all our team members to be open with their managers about the challenges they’re facing, to ask for flexibility if and when they need it – and we want our managers to know they are empowered to accommodate their team members’ specific needs. In that spirit of caring for ourselves and for one another, I want to remind everyone of the Employee Assistance Program. EAP has so many great resources – including counseling, financial coaching and other work-life tools – to help guide and support you through challenging times. It’s there for you 24/7, and it’s another reminder of the depth of resources available to you. Finally, I know all of us are sending our best wishes to members of our Apple family who are ill. We are one global community – all of us are impacted by one another’s suffering. Please know that our thoughts are with you, always.

Thank you for all that you bring to Apple, and for the example of positivity, compassion, and teamwork you set for one another and for the world. See you soon.

Deirdre

Things are changing very rapidly. Look at the contrast of her memo from nine days prior predicting early April.

March 24th:

Team,

First and foremost, I want to say thank you to our teams – all our teams, across every office, every store and every country – for pulling together and supporting one another during an unprecedented time. COVID-19 has changed many things, but it has not changed who we are: a collaborative and focused team that puts people at the center of everything we do.

The same values that define us as a company are helping us through the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak and response. To that end, I want to provide some updates.

– I want to recognize our teams in Greater China, where the ongoing response to COVID-19 is still a part of everyday life. All of our Retail stores and offices have reopened with all the necessary measures in place. It’s wonderful to have our teams there back together again.

– In all our offices outside of Greater China, we are extending flexible work arrangements for all team members – outside of those whose work requires them to be onsite – through at least April 5, which will then be evaluated weekly depending on your location.

– For all of our Retail stores outside of Greater China, we will reopen our stores on a staggered basis. At this time, we anticipate some stores may be able to open in the first half of April depending on the conditions in their community. We will provide updates for each store as soon as specific dates are established. We can’t wait to welcome our teams and customers back.

COVID-19 affects every community and every team differently, so moving forward, our teams will get new updates from their local leaders. Around the world, we’re putting the health of our teams, customers and communities first. As always, you can check the dedicated page on the People site for the latest information. And if you have any questions, please work with your managers, People Business Partners or contact People Support.

There are a lot of resources for our Apple teams to take advantage of – like how to set up a great home workspace, and tips on staying healthy, mind and body. We’ve also created leave policies to help our teams who have to take time off due to illness, or to care for a child or loved one affected by the outbreak.

I’m so inspired by how our teams have been putting the Apple spirit of innovation to the task of working together while working remotely. And I’m immensely proud of our efforts to support the COVID-19 response: from our two-to-one match of employee contributions, to the millions of dollars and millions of vital masks we’ve committed to help patients, researchers, first responders and families around the world.

Thank you for the resilience, empathy and support you continue to demonstrate for our colleagues and customers. I know all of us are sending our very best wishes to our Apple team members and their families who are directly affected by COVID-19.

Deirdre

I see the US retail arm of Apple being shuttered for several more months nationwide.