Ford delays hybrid work shift to March, cites 'fluid' COVID-19 situation

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. said Monday it has informed salaried workers who are subject to a new hybrid work policy announced earlier this year that they will start working under the model in March.

"The state of COVID-19 virus remains fluid, and despite the success of our ongoing safety protocols and increased vaccination rates, we are shifting the start date of the hybrid work model to March," the company said in a statement. "We will begin with a pilot phase for select employees in February and in March, we will expand it so all non-site dependent team members can begin working flexibly between Ford campuses and remote options."

Ford announced in March — a year after the onset of the coronavirus pandemic prompted a massive shift to remote and hybrid work for office workers — that it would implement a flexible work policy for some 30,000 salaried employees in North America and thousands more around the world. The policy essentially enables employees whose jobs do not require them to be on site to determine with their supervisor when, how and where they do their work. Employees might come onto campus to work on collaborative projects with co-workers, for example, and then spend the rest of the week working remotely to focus on individual tasks.

Previous target dates for bringing salaried workers back to offices have repeatedly been put off amid a constantly-changing pandemic landscape.

In August, the company informed thousands of salaried workers that they would not be expected to return to campuses under the new hybrid model until at least January. That change was based in part on the spread of the highly-contagious delta variant of the virus.

At that time, the automaker also announced a new short-term remote work policy that would allow tens of thousands of salaried workers to get permission to work at an alternate location within the country where they're based for up to 30 days per year.

The latest timeline Ford shared this week comes amid the spread of the new omicron coronavirus variant, and as Michigan experiences its fourth COVID-19 surge. Ford declined to provide any additional details about the "pilot phase" of the hybrid model it expects to begin in February or how many employees would be involved.

Ford previously announced that it will require most of its salaried workers in the U.S. to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8 or potentially be put on unpaid leave, in alignment with a federal vaccinate-or-test mandate for government contractors. Ford's compliance deadline is now Jan. 4, in keeping with changes in the Biden administration's deadlines. The administration's vaccine mandates that would cover large swaths of U.S. workers are facing numerous legal challenges. 

Ford says that more than 84% of its salaried employees in the U.S. have reported being fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

jgrzelewski@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @JGrzelewski