Apple Inc. employees and shoppers who expected to see the California-based technology giant reopen its stores this summer got some bad news.
In a video conference call with its workforce last weekend, Deirdre O’Brien, Apple’s senior vice president of retail and people, encouraged employees to serve customers from home, Bloomberg News reported.
“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,” O’Brien told staff in the video. “We may need to be working remotely for some period of time.”
Apple has been forced to rethink its retail operations as COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the U.S. and in other parts of the world. Of the company’s 271 stores in the U.S., more than 90 have had to close again due to spikes of virus cases, Bloomberg reported.
The company has also re-shuttered some stores in the U.K. and Australia. For any that remain open, the company requires temperature checks and face masks for customers and employees.
“The way we have been managing the protocols has been really effective,” O’Brien said in the video.
In addition to having employees work from home, Apple said the company is shipping coronavirus test kits to workers’ homes, and told staff in a memo that a full return to U.S. offices won’t occur until next year.
O’Brien said that as a surge of customers has begun shopping for products or services, some are experiencing significant wait times.
“This is not the experience that we want to have for our customers,” she added. “So we really want to make sure we are moving to where our customers are, to help them during this very challenging time. As you know, people are really dependent upon their devices, especially right now.”
At the onset of the pandemic four months ago, most of the Apple stores were shuttered and the company asked its employees to switch to online roles, the news service reported.
Since March, Apple and its partner, Goldman Sachs, have allowed Apple Card holders to skip payments in consideration of the financial impact of the coronavirus.