Can Apple and others make flex-work models work for store associates?
Apple plans to test a hybrid work model for retail employees that would sometimes allow them to work from home to handle online selling needs.
Sources told Bloomberg that the “Retail Flex” pilot will debut this fall involving a small number of staff that will allow employees to work at their store locations some weeks and remotely other weeks. At-home employees will handle online sales, customer service and tech support.
The move comes amid expectations that many consumers will continue to prefer online shopping over in-person shopping as the digital shift has accelerated during the pandemic.
“Workers will move between their store and remote roles depending on demand in stores versus online shopping during a particular period,” according to the Bloomberg article.
The pilot is expected to ramp up from September to December when a number of new iPhones and other gadgets are set to launch. Participants are being asked to participate in the program for at least six months. They’ll receive the same salary but be reimbursed for some internet expenses and receive $100 toward office equipment.
The move comes amid a big push for more flexible work schedules from corporate employees as work-from-home has been embraced across industries during the pandemic. Corporations continue to debate the benefits of work/life balance for staff and calculate the cost savings of working remotely against the risks of losing the collaboration, mentoring and camaraderie that many believe stem from traditional office environments.
Apple’s announcement in early June that corporate employees would need to return to the office for three days a week starting in September was met with wide disapproval by its employee base.
Retail store staff may likewise be seeking more flexible work options amid a tight labor market. Many retailers over the last year have been adding more flexibility to work schedules, including providing more say over hours, as well as providing more predictable work schedules while also raising wages, adding special bonuses and beefing up benefits. Some associates are being provided with added flexibility to explore and advance into other roles.
- Apple to Test Hybrid Work From Store and Home for Retail Staff – Bloomberg
- Apple Developing Hybrid ‘Retail Flex’ Work From Home Program for Apple Store Employees – MacRumors
- Apple employees push back against returning to the office in internal letter – The Verge
- Deskless and Shift Workers Are Still Suffering From a Lack of Scheduling Flexibility and Engagement – Quinyx/Business Wire
- Why Attracting Restaurant Employees is Not Just About Wages – QSR Magazine
- Should retailers ask workers to return to their offices? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does Apple’s flexible-work model make sense and could it work for many other retail channels? Can more flexibility be built into retail’s workforce that may also support omnichannel labor needs?