The morning commute is starting to look much different due to the coronavirus outbreak increasing the number of employers, now including Detroit automakers, directing or allowing employees to work from home.
General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles have all announced or expanded some form of remote work program in recent days as Michigan state and public health officials push social distancing and other steps to slow the spread of Covid-19.
The work-from-home guidelines apply to employees who aren’t required to work assembly lines and in other similar assignments.
GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra and Ford President and CEO Jim Hackett both sent letters Friday with work-from-home directives beginning Monday. FCA CEO Mike Manley sent a letter Thursday that the company’s remote work program, called “Smart Working,” is available to all employees.
Ford Motor Company announced Friday that, starting Monday, its global workforce –except those in business-critical roles that cannot be done away from Ford facilities –will be working remotely until further notice. China operations also are not included in the work-remote mandate.
On Thursday, the company confirmed it was testing its computer systems to allow access and capacity. When asked if Ford would rotate teams to accommodate server capacity issues, spokesman T.R. Reid said the company had transitioned in recent weeks and didn’t anticipate any issues.
While Ford employs an estimated 198,000 workers globally, that includes approximately half in factory settings that cannot work remotely, Reid said. The company did not immediately provide a total number of employees working remotely in North America and Europe.
Barra’s letter told workers that beginning Monday, all GM employees and contract workers are asked to work remotely, although it acknowledged exceptions. The directive is for all parts of the globe except for China, where “existing protocols” are in place.
The letter, which encourages close contact with team leaders, said not everyone can work remotely, and that the company is taking precautions to make sure employees are safe and that it is adjusting other functions, including manufacturing and product development, to allow for more cleaning.
Barra also presented a message of mission for the automaker in light of so many disruptions.
“Given the current drop in use of public transportation and extensive flight cancellations, our customers are looking to us more than ever to ensure they have the vehicles, parts and services they need. Thank you to everyone for helping to ensure that we continue to deliver,” the letter said.
FCA has been particularly affected by the pandemic because of the extensive outbreak in Italy, where the company has extensive operations.
Manley noted that working remotely had become the “new normal” at FCA’s offices in China, South Korea, Japan and Italy.
Follow Free Press reporter Eric D. Lawrence on Twitter: @_ericdawrence. Phoebe Wall Howard contributed to this report.