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Ford Motor Co. adopts hybrid workplace to boost productivity

Ford Motor Co. believes a hybrid workplace will improve productivity as well as employee retention and well-being. On Wednesday, it unveiled a plan to support a remote work model.

Ford Motor Co., which famously used an assembly line to revolutionize auto production, is adopting a hybrid workplace model for about 30,000 U.S. employees. Like the assembly line, Ford believes a partial work-from-home model will boost productivity and deliver "higher quality output." 

Ford announced its new hybrid workplace strategy Wednesday at a global virtual town hall. In a report to employees, the automaker said remote work enables "focused work, think time, reflection." The work that occurs on site will be "purpose-driven" and collaborative.

Ford believes supporting a hybrid workplace will benefit productivity, according to the company's report. It will also give the firm the ability to attract and retain top talent, it said. 

The hybrid workplace model "enables us to capitalize on the positive benefits of a virtual environment, including enhanced flexibility, agility, productivity, and employee satisfaction and prioritize our campus spaces for collaboration and community," Kiersten Robinson, Ford's chief people and employee experiences officer, said in the report to employees. 

Ford employs about 87,000 people in the U.S. Those who will switch to a hybrid workplace mode are the "non-place-dependent employees."

The firm is basing its decision, in part, on employee feedback. "Employees said they were happier and more productive with the work-from-home arrangement," Robinson said.

Remote was top employee choice

In an employee preference survey last summer, 95% of its workers supported a mix of remote and in-office work. Only 5% wanted to return to work on site full-time. 

Employees said they were happier and more productive with the work-from-home arrangement.
Kiersten RobinsonChief people and employee experiences officer, Ford Motor Co.

Silicon Valley firms were among the first to believe the COVID-19 pandemic would have long-lasting workplace impacts. 

In May, just three months after many firms sent employees home to work remotely, Facebook announced its plan to adopt remote work and said that in the next five to 10 years, about half of its employees might be working remotely.

Ford's announcement "is further validation that the hybrid work model is going to be enduring," said Amy Loomis, research director for IDC's future of work effort.

"Their historical legacy as a pioneer in assembly line work makes their transition to hybrid all the more significant as a harbinger for emerging work models," Loomis said.

In its announcement, Ford detailed some of its digital collaboration tools. Ford uses Webex Teams and Meetings, tools for group chat, video calling and online meetings, as well as the social networking tool Yammer, which is part of Microsoft's Office 365 suite. It also uses Bluescape, a collaboration platform that includes an online whiteboard feature. 

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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