Last month, a leaked internal memo revealed that Apple plans on reopening on a staggered basis, the 458 retail stores it owns outside of China. Apple hoped to start opening these locations during the first two weeks of this month, although whether this happens remains to be seen. In China, the company has reopened all 42 Apple Store locations as the country claims to be on the mend.
Apple Store employees are reportedly being asked to work from home
Bloomberg reports that the company is asking some of them to work from home answering technical support questions as part of the AppleCare team. Those who want to participate must set up a workspace in a quiet room in their home with the ability to accommodate the 27-inch Mac that Apple will send to workers. These makeshift workspaces also must have a strong internet connection, and the employees need to go through a virtual training course that will be offered sometime during the next two-weeks.While the Apple employees that man the 458 closed stores are stuck at home,
The report notes that Apple Store employees were sent forms to fill out in order to apply for the technical support jobs. Those who aren't interested in answering these calls from home are asked to explain why. Despite this, Apple claims that the program is not mandatory and that all of its retail employees are still getting paid their full paychecks and receiving their benefits whether they participate in the program or not.
But those who cannot work from home have concerns. They worry that by not agreeing to answer AppleCare and technical support calls from their home, they will look bad in the eyes of their managers. To be sure, there are Apple Store employees happy to help out during the crisis although others don't understand why they are being asked to do this work. This latter group notes that Apple already promised them their full pay and benefits just for staying home.
While Apple had started the work from home program a few weeks ago, over the last week it has reached out in earnest to Apple Store employees seeking to fill the gaps in the AppleCare system. On Friday, the tech giant's retail chief, Deirdre O’Brien, said that the recruiting "has been going great."
Most of Apple's engineers are working from home and Apple has been reimbursing these employees for desks and computer monitors needed to set up a home office. Apple is also sending tips to employees on how best to create an ergonomic environment. And it also is allowing, with permission from those in the higher ranks of the company, some engineers to take home unfinished hardware and software to work on. The COVID-19 pandemic is resulting in the delay of new products. Apple did launch its two new iPad Pro tablets a couple of weeks ago, although they reportedly were manufactured back in January. The budget-priced iPhone 9, originally rumored to be introduced on March 31st, is now expected to first see the light of day on April 15th with its release a week later. And today, contract manufacturer Foxconn said that it still hopes to have the upcoming 5G 2020 iPhone models ready in time for the holiday shopping season.
Apple originally closed its Apple Stores in China on February 3rd. As new domestic infections started to decline sharply in the country, Apple reopened these locations on March 13th. The very next day, all of the firm's brick and mortar stores outside of China were shuttered. At first, Apple said that those stores would be closed until March 27th, but that was later revised to "until further notice." And while the aforementioned leaked memo from O’Brien discusses reopening all closed stores this month, Apple might take a more conservative path and keep the stores closed for a few additional weeks.