(Bloomberg) — Apple Inc. plans to test a hybrid in-store and work-from-home arrangement for retail employees, acknowledging that consumers may continue to prefer online shopping even as the pandemic eases, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
The Cupertino, California-based technology giant will begin a pilot program later this year dubbed “Retail Flex” with a small number of store employees. The arrangement will allow employees to work some weeks at their retail store location and other weeks remotely. From home, workers will handle online sales, customer service and technical support, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing company policies.
Creating such a program is an acknowledgment that the trend of greater online shopping accelerated by Covid-19 may continue despite economic re-openings and vaccine availability in many parts of the world. Workers will move between their store and remote roles depending on demand in stores versus online shopping during a particular period, the people said.
The iPhone maker is asking employees in the pilot program to participate for at least six months. Apple is planning to ramp up the arrangements from September to December, when the company is scheduled to release several new iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watches and AirPods. An Apple spokesman declined to comment on the company’s plans for the retail workforce.
Apple expects to reimburse participating employees for some internet expenses and $100 toward office equipment. They will also retain the same salary regardless of whether they work at home or at the stores. During the height of the pandemic, Apple asked thousands of employees to work remotely, sending them Mac desktops to do their jobs.
In June, Apple completed re-opening all its stores after pandemic-related closures over the past several months. The company has also begun to normalize store operations, dropping its mask requirement for customers and employees in many parts of the U.S.
A hybrid work arrangement for some retail staffers comes after Apple announced return-to-office plans for corporate employees. Apple has asked all non-retail staff beginning in September to work from the office on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, while office attendance is optional on Wednesdays and Fridays.
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