With all of Apple's (AAPL -1.22%) U.S. retail stores shuttered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the iPhone maker is asking store workers to morph into remote technical support staff. 

Apple began testing the idea over the past few weeks but this week has begun encouraging employees to make the transition while the stores remain closed, Bloomberg reports.

Woman providing remote support.


The program is not mandatory for Apple's retail staff. Employees will continue to receive their full salaries and benefits if they don't transition into remote technical support staff. 

Those who agree to provide support as part of the AppleCare program are asked to have a quiet area that can house a 27-inch iMac and the ability to participate in a virtual training class. Apple will provide a speedy Internet connection to its workers. In a video message, Apple retail chief Deirdre O'Brien said the program has been "going great" and that Apple stores may begin reopening on a case by case basis by the first half of April. 

With COVID-19 rapidly spreading across the U.S. and Europe, Apple has had to take drastic steps to help slow the spread. In addition to closing its retail stores outside of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, most of Apple's global workforce is working remotely, which has impeded its ability to help customers with broken devices or questions about its services. Apple is also figuring out ways to adjust the workloads of its staff who are now forced to work remotely.

As of last count, there were more than 188,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S., leading to more than 4,000 deaths.