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By Seattle Times business reporter
Some of Boeing’s remote workers have been ordered back to the office to help the company fix supply-chain problems. When other colleagues don’t have to give up their home offices, some workers resent giving them up.
Most employees in Boeing’s parts-procurement operations will be required to be in the office full time in July, Boeing confirmed Saturday.
The company wouldn’t say how many workers are affected by the directive.
The back-to-office move is necessary to support increased production at a time when Boeing is facing parts-related delays, company officials said.
Stan Deal, Boeing executive vice president and head of commercial airplanes operations, told employees in an internal video that the need to get back into the office to support the airplane is becoming more important. Deal said that response time is important to satisfy the customer on issues that are getting in the way of delivery.
Boeing wouldn’t say when remote or hybrid workers will be required to spend more time in the office.
Back-to-office decisions are left to individual business units, Boeing said in a statement Saturday. Boeing values face-to-face collaboration and will push for more in-person work, according to the statement.
“As we increase production rates, hire thousands of new employees and continue our airplane development work, it’s beneficial to have teams in the office more often to support our customer commitments and collaborate in person, including sharing best practices and responding promptly to emerging needs.”
Boeing didn’t say how many of its employees in the Puget Sound area work remotely or partly remotely.
Roughly half of those employees have been working in-person in Boeing manufacturing facilities, according to the workers union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
Around half of Boeing’s engineers and tech workers are still working from home most of the time, according to the Society of Professional Engineering Employees inAerospace.
Some engineers are being called back in, but there hasn’t yet been a broad back to office push. There was a lot of talk about people coming back into the workplace, but so far it doesn’t seem to have materialized
Some workers in the procurement operations were surprised by the back-to-office directive on Monday. One person said that they and many of their colleagues were still working at home two or three days a week and didn’t want to go back to work full time.
The back-to-office policy was predicted to lead them and colleagues to consider leaving the company or even retire early.
One employee who now works mostly from home said that he would be looking for other jobs.
The employee, who asked not to be identified to protect their job, said that the back-to-office directive clashed with the message of workplace flexibility that other Boeing executives have pushed recently.
During a companywide meeting on June 14, the CEO talked about the benefits of in-person work, but also stressed that giving employees some workplace flexibility amounted to a huge benefit. I don’t want to take it away from them
The Pandemic has taught us all, especially us old-timers, that people can work virtually, they can be remarkably productive, in some ways more productive than coming to the office
The company’s virtual work policy seems “very conflicted”, one procurement employee said, adding that they hoped employees’ negative feedback might lead the company to walk back the new in-office directive.
It’s hard to say whether such sentiments are widespread. One long time Boeing employee who is still allowed to work from home several days a week said losing that flexibility would be difficult. The worker said that even part-time remote work is an important job benefit because of the way commute is.
Boeing is trying to beef up its ranks as it knows that its remote-work policies could cause tensions.
A key challenge in competing for talent was whether some of our competitors were more accommodative than others on virtual work, according to the June 14 meeting. It’s an opportunity for the Boeing company to do this right by embracing virtual work.
Boeing is not the only company trying to get its policy right.
Microsoft acknowledged this week that it might not hit its own goal of 50% in-office work until early next year.