DETROIT – Ford Motor is once again delaying a return-to-work hybrid plan for salaried employees until March amid concerns about rising Covid-19 cases in its home state of Michigan and uncertainty surrounding the omicron variant.
The automaker on Monday informed employees that it now plans to begin a pilot phase for select employees in February and March, followed by a full rollout of the program that was initially announced in March 2021. Ford had previously said it would not return to work under a hybrid work model no earlier than January, which had already been pushed back at least two other times.
“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 an emailed statement.
Ford’s delay comes days after Google said it would not be requiring its employees to return to office in January as planned, saying it will wait until the new year to assess when U.S. offices can safely return to a “stable, long-term working environment.”
About 120,000 to 130,000 of Ford’s 184,000 employees, primarily in manufacturing, have already returned to work. The company’s 56,000 hourly U.S. employees represented by the United Auto Workers union started returning to work in May 2020 after Detroit’s automakers were forced to shutter factories for several weeks at the beginning of the pandemic.
Ford’s hybrid work program is a combination of on-site and remote working for employees whose jobs don’t require them to be at a physical facility.