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Remote work likely to stretch into ’21

HOLLY, Mich. — Ford Motor Co. has pushed back its return-to-work plans twice, most recently giving some salaried employees the option of working remotely until at least the end of this year.

Outgoing CEO Jim Hackett thinks that policy is likely to continue beyond what the automaker has announced.

“It’s my bet it will be extended beyond that,” Hackett told reporters earlier this week on the sidelines of an event promoting the new Bronco SUV. “If you come this far to manage this and just say ‘Well I’m tired of this’ and change the profile and the risk, why did we do all the safety planning to begin with?”

Hackett, who will retire effective Oct. 1, said the automaker is shifting what he calls “we spaces,” or common office areas, to be more mindful of social distancing should workers elect to return to Ford facilities.

Ford resumed production at North American manufacturing facilities in mid-May. At the same time, it recalled about 12,000 non-manufacturing employees whose jobs required them to be on site. Ford says more than 100,000 workers globally have returned to the workplace since May.

Hackett said he doesn’t want to rush the remainder of Ford’s white-collar work force back into offices as the pandemic continues to spread.

“Bill [Ford] and I feel the company’s running really well right now the way we’re all working it,” he said. “So we don’t want to prematurely get back.”