Ford: No going back to the old way of work

DETROIT — After nearly two decades of dutifully commuting to Ford Motor Co.’s campus in Dearborn, Mich., whether or not she needed to be there, Kelly Keller, a chemistry lab and material compliance manager, discovered over the past year that she and her team can be productive from home.

“For me, it’s two hours I have to do work instead of sitting in a car in traffic,” Keller told Automotive News. “It’s one of the good sides of the pandemic. The work is still getting done, and I think Ford sees that.”

Just over 12 months after COVID-19 prompted a mandatory office exile, Ford last week told tens of thousands of salaried employees that they can continue at least some at-home work on a permanent basis. The hybrid schedule is a drastic paradigm shift for a traditional manufacturer and could prompt a larger modernization for an industry accustomed to 20th century cubicle farms and conference rooms.

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“No one would have imagined this being possible two years ago,” said Adam Robinson, CEO of Hireology, a hiring technology platform that works with automotive retailers. “When Facebook did it, people said, ‘OK, well, tech companies do that kind of thing.’ When Ford does it, employers really need to take notice. They’ve set a standard. It’s not only the right policy, it’s going to be table stakes to be at the top of the game in recruiting.”

Ford said the decision was prompted by a 10-week examination of the future of work, as well as a survey that found 95 percent of its workers around the globe preferred to continue some degree of remote work. Robinson said Hireology’s own studies show similar results.

“Over the course of the last year, workers have grown to appreciate the flexibility their employers have given them, and they want to keep it,” he said. “Employers who continue to give it to them and continue to cater to the needs of their work force are going to win the talent war. Those who do not evolve to a hybrid model where they could do so will be at a distinct disadvantage in the market.”

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