With the worst of the pandemic hopefully behind us, companies are fast announcing their return-to-work plans. They run the gamut from strongly advising staff to return to an office setting, like Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Netflix, to working remotely forever, as promised by Twitter and Spotify.
The majority of corporations are adopting Google’s model of a “flexible hybrid” program, including a combination of in-office and remote work. General Motors (GM), the large American automaker, is presenting a streamlined and simple approach—“Work appropriately.”
Mary Barra, the CEO of the iconic carmaker, said about her perspective of the post-pandemic workplace, “The future of work is not a one-size-fits-all approach, and our values and behaviors will guide us in this culture change.” Barra added, “Work appropriately means that where the work permits, employees will have the flexibility to work where they can have the greatest impact on achieving our goals.”
Instead of giving top-down orders, according to Barra, “It is up to leaders to focus on the work, not the where, and we will provide the tools and resources needed to make the right decisions to support our teams.” The decision was based, in part, by the feedback from workers in response to several surveys asking how and where people would like to work.
The “work appropriately” tagline is seen as a way of viewing things, as opposed to a hard-and-fast program. It denotes decentralization in decision making, empowering managers and listening to workers. The goal is to offer choices and flexibility for its 155,000 employees. This thought process mirrors Barra’s approach to GM’s dress code when she was in charge of human resources. At that time, Barra dispensed with pages of jargon and demands and simply wrote, “Dress appropriately.”
Another large carmaker, Detroit-based Ford Motors, previously informed its 30,000 white-collar office workers that they can continue to work from home “indefinitely” and have “flexible hours approved by their managers.” It’s anticipated that people will come into the office primarily for meetings and group projects.
Kiersten Robinson, Ford chief people and employee experiences officer, says that employees won’t return to the office before July. Once they return, the amount of time working remotely will be determined by the responsibilities of the job and input from their supervisors.
Robinson added, “The nature of the work we do really is going to be a guiding element.” She told CNBC, “If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the last 12 months, it is that a lot of our assumptions around work and what employees need has shifted.” Robinson’s not calling this the “future of work,” as it’s an “evolution,” as the carmaker recognizes that there will likely be changes and modifications as time goes on.
Ford will redesign its corporate-office interiors. The workspaces will be retrofitted to be versatile and adaptable to future needs for change. This includes walls, furniture, fixtures, conference rooms and collaborative spaces. Attention will be paid to enabling video calls and deploying technology to enhance virtual connectivity amongst co-workers and managers.
This big change was inspired by a companywide survey. About 95% of Ford’s office workers said they’d prefer having the options to self-determine the manner in which they want to work. Ford feels that this empowerment will lead to better job satisfaction, happier workers and offer a nicer work-life balance. The automaker acknowledges that there may be some negative perception, as white-collar employees are able to work remotely, while factory and production workers don’t have that luxury.
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