Apple has delayed its phased return to the office until at least January, blaming a surge in Covid cases as the delta variant spreads rapidly across the US.

The iPhone developer told staff it would not make returning to Apple Park and other offices compulsory until 2022, having originally planned to end home working for most staff by the autumn. 

Staff were originally intended to return to Apple’s offices three days a week from September, but this was pushed back to October. 

Apple had faced staff anger over its return to work plans. The notoriously secretive technology giant has endured an increasingly public staff kickback on social media around its plans. In a leaked letter, Apple employees said its return to work policies had “already forced some of our colleagues to quit”.

Apple’s retail stores have been open in the UK since April, while all its shops in the US reopened in March. Some sites have been forced to close again due to Covid cases.

Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s HR chief, told staff: “I know there are feeling of frustration that the pandemic is not yet behind us.

“For many colleagues around the world, this period has been a time of great tragedy, suffering, and heartbreak. Please know that we are all here to support one another and stand with one another during such challenging times.” 

She added that Apple did not plan to close its retail stores or offices and encouraged staff to get vaccinated, The Verge first reported.

Apple joins tech companies including Facebook and Amazon in delaying their return to the office as coronavirus cases surge again thanks to the Delta variant.

In the US, new daily cases surged to 160,000 per day, having fallen to a low of around 11,000 in June. The Delta variant has proved far more transmissible and forced companies into reconsidering their return to work schedules.