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Aug. 12, 2022

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Boeing wants more workers in-office to ramp up production

Company says it values ‘face-to-face collaboration’


Boeing has ordered some of its remote workforce back to the office to help the company ramp up production and fix supply-chain problems. But like many employers navigating the post-pandemic landscape, the aerospace giant is getting pushback from workers who resent giving up their “home” offices when other colleagues don’t have to.

Employees in Boeing’s parts-procurement operations who are still working fully or partly remotely learned Monday that most will be required in-office full time starting in July, Boeing confirmed Saturday.

The company declined to say how many workers are affected by the directive, which was announced internally Monday by Brian Baird, vice president of supply chain.

The back-to-office move, which comes after two-plus years of remote work for thousands of Boeing workers, is needed to support stepped-up production at a time when Boeing is facing parts-related delays, company officials said.

“As we’ve ramped up, we learned that the need to get back into the office to support the airplane is becoming increasingly important,” Stan Deal, Boeing executive vice president and head of commercial airplanes operations, told employees in an internal company video posted Tuesday and shared with The Seattle Times. “Minutes and seconds count in response time to help satisfy our customer on issues that are getting in the way of delivery,” Deal said.

Boeing wouldn’t say when or whether other areas in 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 emphasized 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 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 emergent needs,” said the statement.

Boeing also didn’t say what fraction of its Puget Sound-area workforce, which was nearly 56,000 as of Jan. 1, currently works remotely or partly remotely.

A little under half of those employees have been working in-person in Boeing manufacturing facilities for most of the pandemic, according to the workers’ union, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which currently counts roughly 26,000 members in its local chapter.

But around half of Boeing’s 14,500 engineers and tech workers are still working remotely most of the time, said Bill Dugovich, spokesperson for their union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.

Although Dugovich has heard that some engineers are being called back in, he said there hasn’t yet been a broad back-to-office push. “There’s been a lot of talk about people coming back into the workplace, but so far, it doesn’t seem to have materialized,” Dugovich said.

Boeing also didn’t say how many of its other local employees are still working remotely.

Some workers in the procurement operations said Monday’s back-to-office directive was an unwelcome surprise. One indicated that they and many of their colleagues were still working at home two or three days a week and opposed being back in the office full time.

Another predicted the back-to-office policy would lead them and colleagues to consider leaving for other, more flexible companies or even retiring early.

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