Even Apple Retail Staff May Soon Be Able to Work from Home | ‘Retail Flex’

Apple Employees and Staff at Apple Store Credit: Camillo Miller / Flickr / CC
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As odd as it sounds, Apple may soon offer some of its retail store employees the option of working from home as part of a new hybrid work program that’s scheduled to begin pilot testing soon, according to Bloomberg.

It’s a particularly unusual move from a company that’s taken a more hardline approach to remote work than most of its other Silicon Valley counterparts. However, it also acknowledges the vast differences between retail and engineering and design work, plus an understanding of regional diversity both of store locations and local public health responses to the (hopefully) waning pandemic.

After all, in the case of the sprawling Apple Park campus, it’s important for Apple’s teams to be able to get together and collaborate on new product ideas to keep the creative juices flowing. Plus, Apple’s culture of secrecy within the walls of Apple Park rivals that of the Pentagon. In fact, rumour has it that Apple is now asking employees working on sensitive projects to strap on body cameras, so it’s not hard to see how remote work might be completely out of the question for people in these roles.

Apple’s 70,000+ retail workers are another matter entirely, however, since none of them have access to even the most insignificant details of Apple’s secret projects, nor do they need to spend a lot of time collaborating with their colleagues to be productive.

As Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman notes, however, the move is also recognizing the fact that more people are expected to stick with online shopping in a post-pandemic era.

This could result in a reduction in the staff needed in physical Apple Stores, and it appears that Apple wants to try to take care of its people by allowing them to work in online sales and support roles, rather than laying off hundreds of retail employees and setting up a single massive call centre instead.

‘Retail Flex’ | How Does It Work?

According to Gurman, the program is dubbed “Retail Flex” and is designed to be a hybrid program that will allow employees to shift between in-store retail work and remote at-home work on a weekly basis.

When working from home, staff will be expected to handle online sales, customer service, and technical support, and those signing up for the program would be asked to stick with it for at least six months, so that Apple can get a feel for how well it works.

Gurman says that it’s expected to ramp up the program later this year, during the busy September – December shopping season, when of course Apple will also be releasing a whole slew of new products, including the “iPhone 13” and Apple Watch Series 7, as well as likely new MacBooks, AirPods, and more.

Sources say that the employees will receive some reimbursement for internet expenses and $100 toward office equipment, while being paid the same salary regardless of where they’re working.

When Apple’s retail stores were shuttered during the pandemic, it offered many of its retail employees an opportunity to get some extra work by handling customer support calls from home, sending them Mac desktops to do their jobs. It’s unclear if this new Retail Flex program would offer similar equipment or whether employees would be required to use their own Macs if they chose to opt-in.

By comparison, Apple’s corporate employees will be returning to work in September as part of a different hybrid arrangement that will see everyone in the office at Apple Park on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays, while working from home on Wednesdays and Fridays.

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