What Ford, the pioneer of the 9-to-5 workweek, is learning about hybrid work

Ford Motor Company World Headquarters, Dearborn, Michigan on January 19, 2021.

Aaron J. Thornton | Getty Images

After several setbacks and delays due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Ford Motor Co. finally began accepting employees into its offices earlier this month.

It also came with a significant shift in company workplace policies that helped establish the traditional five-day, 40-hour workweek as the norm: the launch of a new hybrid work model in which job-agnostic employees could work flexibly between Ford’s campus location and remoteness.

Perhaps Ford had reason to believe that many of its employees would want to return to the office after the plan was implemented. the company surveyed 56,000 employees worldwide who worked remotely in June 2020 about their post-pandemic work preferences, and 95% said they would like to combine telecommuting and office work, while 5% said they would like to work onsite.

However, Ford director of HR and employee experience Kirsten Robinson said during a virtual CNBC Work event on Wednesday that the early results “were a bit of a surprise.”

“When we opened our doors to our employees on April 4 to welcome them to the workplace — those who wanted to return — the number of those who actually returned to work was lower than we expected,” Robinson said.

While the company is “at a very early stage,” Robinson said, Ford still sees signs among those who have come to work that they can “brainstorm and do strategic work together.”

Here are some of the key things Ford noticed after the workers returned.

Focus on Automotive Jobs

Given that Ford has many employees whose jobs don’t allow for remote or hybrid work, Robinson said the company has “really made it clear that the nature of work determines where and how work is done.”

“In our manufacturing facilities, you can only do this work on site, so we are focused on making sure the work environment is as supportive and inviting as possible, and what additional tools and amenities we can use. provide,” she said.

This has prompted Ford to make an effort to explore how it can improve manufacturing capacity, looking for ways to improve worker wellbeing, nutrition, and even indoor natural light — “conditions that can really impact your work experience,” Robinson said.

For knowledge workers, Ford invites departments to meet with their teams and make a plan of what they need to get done in 90 days, asking questions about key work tasks and how and where best to get it done. Job.

“We measure mood, we measure employee experience over those 90 days, but of course we will be able to measure the outcome and whether employees feel with this agency and with this choice, they or not.” as productive as it needs to be,” Robinson said.

Gathering data on new office habits

Robinson said that Ford has already upgraded 33% of its southeast Michigan facilities to “make them more suitable for co-hybrid operation” and that it has a roadmap to continue doing so in the coming years.

Ford assumes that roughly 50% of its employees will be in the office on any given day, but Robinson said he will test that hypothesis more clearly in the coming months.

Ford confirmed a slight layoff on Wednesday, posting a $3.1 billion profit and loss in the first quarter, largely due to the loss in value of a 12% stake in electric vehicle startup Rivian Automotive. As it transitions to electric vehicles, 580 US employees and agency workers, mostly engineers, have been laid off as part of Ford+’s reorganization plan.

According to her, the company does not plan to reduce the number of facilities it has, but rather makes them as favorable as possible for hybrid operation.

Now that the workers are back in the office, Ford is keeping a close eye on how the space is actually used.

“We have very clear data on traffic patterns, which days are most popular, and we use sensors at many of our properties to even measure what types of spaces are being used and for what purposes,” Robinson said.

“There is no perfect answer here, except that I don’t think we can go back to how we worked before the pandemic,” she said. “I really hope we all take this as an opportunity to really rethink and rethink the evolution of work, to experiment and really invest in understanding employee feedback, their sentiment and use that to keep improving and changing the way work looks. “

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