Apple is asking some of its retail staff to work from home as the coronavirus pandemic causes the ongoing closure of many of its stores.
The tech giant closed all of its outlets outside of China in mid-March as the pandemic worsened. In early May it started to tentatively reopen some of its sites, but more recently in the U.S. spikes in COVID-19 cases have forced the company to once again close some of its stores in a bid to protect its staff and help slow the spread of the virus.
Concerned that some customers are starting to experience long wait times for assistance because their local Apple Store is closed, Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people, is now asking those who work at stores that are currently closed to work from home by offering online and phone assistance for customers interested in purchasing products or in need of support regarding an Apple-related issue, according to a Bloomberg report on Monday, July 13.
In a video message sent to retail staff over the weekend, O’Brien said: “If your store is closed, please sign up for Retail at Home, please talk to your manager, because we really need to make sure that we shift our teams to greet our customers remotely in this time.”
Noting that some customers are enduring “significant” wait times, O’Brien said this was “not the experience that we want to have for our customers,” adding that the company wants to ensure it can offer effective help “during this very challenging time,” with many people “really dependent upon their devices, especially right now.”
The executive added that, considering the current conditions regarding the pandemic, “We may need to be working remotely for some period of time.”
More than 90 of Apple’s retail 291 stores in the U.S. are currently closed due to ongoing coronavirus outbreaks across the country. Stores that are able to continue operating have introduced a bunch of new procedures to keep staff and customers safe from possible infection. Measures include temperature checks at the door, face masks for customers and staff, regular cleaning of displayed devices, and limits on the number of visitors at any one time.
Regarding its office workers, Apple said recently that it expects remote working to continue for most of its employees in North America until at least the end of this year, though it will continue to look at the situation on a location-by-location basis.
Digital Trends has reached out to Apple for more information on its strategy for reopening its retail stores and we will update this article when we hear back.