Apple Inc. is asking retail store employees to temporarily become remote technical support staff while stores remain closed.
A subset of retail staff are participating in the program to become work-from-home AppleCare employees so the company has enough workers to handle customer requests.
The company quietly piloted the move in recent weeks before prodding many employees this week to take part. In a video message on Friday, Apple retail chief Deirdre O’Brien said the effort “has been going great.”
Some workers said their current situation prevented them from participating and they worried this could put them in lesser standing with their managers. Others said they were surprised by the request after Apple had pledged to keep paying them just for staying home. Other workers said they are happy to assist during this unprecedented period.
Several store workers were sent forms to sign up and those who don’t want to are asked to explain why. The employees asked not to be identified speaking about internal issues. Still, the program is not mandatory, and Apple confirmed that all retail employees, regardless of participation, are being paid their full salaries and benefits.
The program is one of several changes to Apple’s operations as it adjusts to the global health crisis. The Cupertino, California-based technology giant closed its 458 stores outside of mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong earlier in March to help curb the spread of Covid-19.
Nearly all of Apple’s global corporate employees, including engineers, are working from home, causing some product delays and the need for staff to adjust to the new reality.
Read more:Apple Culture of Secrecy Tested by Employees Working Remotely
The company asks employees participating in the AppleCare program to have a quiet workspace with room for a 27-inch iMac, which Apple will provide, a strong internet connection, and the ability to participate in a virtual training course to be held in the next two weeks.
In messages to employees, O’Brien said Apple stores would reopen on a case-by-case basis depending on local conditions, possibly as soon as the first half of April.
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