Boeing has returned some of its remote workforce to the office to help the company ramp up production and address supply chain issues. But like many employers navigating the pandemic as it winds down, the aerospace giant is being pushed back by workers who don’t like giving up their ‘home’ desks when other co-workers don’t. to do it.
Boeing parts supply operations employees who are still working fully or partially remotely learned on Monday that most will have to be in the office full-time starting in July, Boeing confirmed on Saturday.
The company declined to say how many workers are affected by the directive, which was announced internally on Monday by Brian Baird, vice president of supply chain.
The back-to-office move, which comes after more than two years of remote work for thousands of Boeing employees, is needed to support ramped-up production at a time when Boeing is dealing with parts-related delays , company officials said.
“As we have ramped up, we have learned that the need to return to the office to support the aircraft becomes increasingly important,” said Stan Deal, Boeing executive vice president and chief commercial aircraft operations, to employees in an internal company video. published on Tuesday and shared with the Seattle Times. “Minutes and seconds count in response time to help satisfy our customer on issues that are impeding delivery,” Deal said.
Boeing would not say when or if other areas of the company will require remote or hybrid workers to spend more time in the office.
In a statement Saturday, Boeing said back-to-office decisions are left to individual business units. But the statement stressed that Boeing values ”face-to-face collaboration” and said the push for more in-person work will continue.
“As we increase production rates, hire thousands of new employees andcontinue our aircraft development work, it is beneficial to have teams in the office more often to support our commitments to our customers and collaborate face-to-face, including sharing best practices and responding quickly to emerging needs,” said the communicated.
Boeing also did not specify what fraction of its workforce in the Puget Sound region, which was nearly 56,000 as of Jan. 1, is currently working remotely or partially remotely.
Just under half of those employees worked in person at Boeing manufacturing facilities for most of the pandemic, according to the workers’ union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which counts currently about 26,000 members in its local.
But about half of Boeing’s 14,500 engineers and technicians still work mostly remotely, said Bill Dugovich, spokesman for their union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.
Although Dugovich has heard that some engineers are being recalled, he said there hasn’t been a broad push back to the office yet. “There’s been a lot of talk about getting people back into the workplace, but so far that doesn’t seem to have materialized,” Dugovich said.
Some supply operations workers said Monday’s back-to-office directive came as an unpleasant surprise. One reported that they and many of their colleagues still work from home two or three days a week and object to being back in the office full time.
Another predicted that the back-to-work policy would cause them and their colleagues to consider leaving for other more flexible companies or even retiring earlier.
“I would look for other jobs elsewhere,” said a company supply operations employee in Everett, who now works mostly from home.
The employee, who asked not to be identified to protect his job, also said Baird’s return-to-work directive contradicted the message of workplace flexibility that other Boeing executives have been pushing. those last weeks.
During a company-wide “all hands” meeting on June 14, CEO Dave Calhoun spoke of the “massive benefits” of working in person, but also stressed that giving employees some flexibility on the workplace amounted to a “huge benefit – I would love to have that life when I was riding. I don’t want to take that away from them. »
Calhoun also acknowledged that the pandemic “has taught us all, especially us elders, that people can work virtually, they can be remarkably productive…in some ways more productive than coming into the office.”
All in all, the company’s virtual work policy seems “very divisive”, said a procurement employee, adding that he hoped “negative feedback” from employees could cause the company to backtrack on the new directive on office.
It is difficult to discern whether such sentiments are prevalent. A longtime Seattle-area Boeing employee who is still allowed to work from home several days a week said it would be hard to lose that flexibility. After more than two years, many even see part-time remote work as a significant job perk, “especially here with the way commuting is done,” the worker said.
Boeing seems aware that its remote working policies could create tension even as the company scrambles to bolster its ranks.
At the same June 14 meeting, Calhoun acknowledged that a key challenge in competing for talent was whether “some of our competitors [are] more accommodating than others” on virtual work. “Embracing virtual work,” Calhoun added, is an “opportunity for The Boeing Company to do it right.”
Boeing isn’t the only company trying to implement its virtual work policy.
This week, Redmond-based Microsoft, which has probably studied the return-to-office challenge as carefully as any organization, acknowledged that it may not meet its own 50% work-in-office target. before the start of next year.