Ford Launches WFH Flexible Plan As Employees Return This Summer


DETROIT – Most of Ford Motor’s roughly 86,000 global employees who have yet to return to work are expected to begin doing so this summer through a new hybrid work schedule that gives employees more flexibility on when to report to the office.

The automaker informed staff of its plans on Wednesday morning, a year after many of the company’s non-manufacturing employees began working remotely to help curb the spread of Covid-19.

No major return to work is expected before July, according to Kiersten Robinson, Ford’s chief personnel officer and chief employee experience officer. He said how much an employee will be able to work remotely will be based on their job responsibilities, as well as discussions with managers.

“The nature of the work that we do will really be a guiding element,” Robinson told CNBC. “If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past 12 months, it’s that a lot of our assumptions about work and employee needs have changed.”

About 40% of employers who switched to remote work at the start of the coronavirus pandemic plan to have workers return to the office starting this month, according to a recent Conference Board report. Most can make it voluntary for some and mandatory for others, the think tank found, or adopt some kind of flexible weekly schedule like Ford’s.

About 100,000 of Ford’s 186,000 employees, mostly in manufacturing, have already returned to work. Work schedules are not expected to change much, if any, for workers who need to be at a certain facility to perform their tasks.

Ford’s biggest rival in the city, General Motors, expects to start bringing in remote employees in June or July, according to company spokesman David Caldwell. The company has not announced a plan to employees, but Caldwell said it “will likely be more flexible” depending on the individual’s responsibilities.

Vaccines

Ford’s decision follows several rounds of employee surveys over the past year about returning to work, according to Robinson. The questions included preferences about remote work and whether employees planned to get vaccinated.

“We’ve been working a lot on extracting the lessons learned over the last 12 months and the impact on how we think about the evolution of work at Ford,” he said. She said the automaker surveys its employees almost every week.

Most Ford employees are expected to be vaccinated, Robinson said. The company does not require it, but is providing information and resources to those who have not yet made up their minds.

Office changes

The company hopes to continue requiring employees to wear masks and practice social distancing for at least the rest of this year, Robinson said.

Such practices, as well as flexibility regarding where and when employees can work, are not rigid, he said. Instead, he said the company will continue to learn and adapt to the wishes of employees, as well as what health officials recommend.

“We are not calling this the ‘future of work’, we are intentionally calling it an ‘evolution’ because we will continue to learn as we move forward and will use that knowledge to adapt our practices and policies around flexible working as well as other areas.” Robinson said.

Once employees return to work, Robinson said, the experience for many will be different. Instead of going “somewhat unconsciously” to work on a daily basis, it will rely on events such as meetings, presentations, or projects that require more collaboration than others.

Ford has offered alternative work schedules, such as 10-hour days four times a week instead of the traditional five-day work week, but Robinson said the acceptance rate for such programs was low. It’s one of the many things the company will monitor regarding its new plans, he said.

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