Remote working Americans cause productivity to plunge; Ford reportedly cutting 1,000 jobs

Staff who 'work' from home are putting in 2.5 fewer hours per day compared to their office-working colleagues, finds new research:

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Jun 30, 2023
This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.

Remote working Americans causing productivity to plunge

New data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has revealed that a third of Americans worked from home in 2022 (up from 25% in 2019). But the big surprise was that these home-working employees were found to work 2.5 hours ‘less’ per day than their peers who worked in offices. The findings will, suggest experts, give managers yet more ammunition to demand that workers return to the office. “It’s no wonder labor force productivity has been negative for the past five straight quarters amid office occupancy that remains at sub-50% in the largest US cities, even three-plus years after lockdowns,” commented DataTrek Research co-founder, Nicholas Colas. The data suggests that if employees returned to the office at their 2019 level, and worked their standard 8.2 hours a day instead of the at-home 5.7 hours a day, then the economy would add 800 million more weeks of output per year – or an 8% bump.

Ford reportedly cutting 1,000 jobs in a big week of job losses

According to Forbes, motor giant, Ford, is imminently about to cut “at least” 1,000 salaried and contractor staff. The job losses are believed to be at the automaker’s software and gas-powered and electric vehicle manufacturing units. This is just the latest round of cuts being made by Ford. In March 2022, it announced plans to reduce structural costs by up to $3 billion, while in August last year it also said it would cut 3,000 salaried jobs across the US and India. Ford has so far not responded to these claims. Ford’s latest effort to streamline its operations comes after General Motors recently said it would be offering employee buyouts to leave the organization. This week alone, several other large corporates have announced big job cuts: KPMG said it would be shedding 1,900 US employees (on top on the 700 already announced in February), while another 250 will exit from Goldman Sachs (on top of the 4,000 already revealed). Finally, Uber also unveiled big job losses this week, of around 200 positions – mainly aimed at its recruitment team, where 35% of it will go.

Titanic sub employee claims he was sacked after raising safety concerns

After the world briefly paused in the hope that the OceanGate submarine would be found, comes the inevitable introspection and blame-finding. And one former employee – David Lochridge, OceanGate’s former director of marine operations – now claims he was sacked after raising concerns about the integrity of the craft. Court filings from 2018 show that Lochridge had raised concerns over “safety and quality control issues regarding the Titan [submersible] to OceanGate executive management,” and that he said he had been wrongly fired after flagging worries about the company’s alleged “refusal to conduct critical, non-destructive testing of the experimental design.” The filings say CEO, Stockton Rush, asked Lochridge to provide a “quality inspection” report on the vessel, which “identified numerous issues that posed serious safety concerns.” But he was allegedly “met with hostility and denial of access” to necessary documents before later being fired.

Texas airport worker killed after being sucked into airplane engine

An investigation is under way, to establish how a worker at San Antonio’s international airport died after being sucked into a jet’s engine. According to some outlets, the worker – who has not been publically identified – may have intentionally stepped in front of the live engine, belonging to a Delta Airlines jet, which had just arrived from Los Angeles and was taxiing to an arrival gate. The US National Transportation Safety Board will now seek to establish what happened. The employee was a worker at Unifi Aviation, which provides ground handling services for Delta and other airlines. In a statement, it said the company was “deeply saddened” by the loss of the employee. The company also made it a point to say that its initial investigation had shown the worker’s death was “unrelated to Unifi’s operational processes, safety procedures and policies.” The statement did not elaborate on whether officials suspect anything other than an accident had happened.

Pregnant Workers Fairness Act gives millions new protections

Millions of workers this week got new protections, after the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act – the culmination of more than ten years’ campaigning – finally became effective. The historic new law bars employers from discriminating against pregnant women and requires companies to provide accommodations so they can keep doing their jobs while they’re expecting. Commentators say the law “patches” a legal gap between the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) in which pregnant women could fall through the cracks in the workplace. The ADA, which has been in place since 1990, prohibits employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities and also requires that they make accommodations for them. But, under the ADA, pregnancy itself is not considered a disability that requires accommodation. The PDA meanwhile, only bans employers from discriminating on the basis of pregnancy in hiring and firing. Supporters of the new law claim the three-quarters of women who will be pregnant at some time in their life, will now be able to maintain the career they want.

Transgender healthcare gets the go-ahead in Arizona

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs this week signed two executive orders that pave the way for transgender employees to get healthcare under their insurance plans. Under the executive actions, state agencies will be prohibited from using funds to promote or facilitate so-called conversion therapy, the scientifically discredited practice of using therapy to “convert” LGBTQ+ people to heterosexuality or traditional gender expectations. Also, state employee health insurance plans can no longer list gender-affirming surgery as ineligible for coverage. A ban on such coverage was originally enacted in 2017. The latter order effectively resolves an ongoing lawsuit brought in 2019 by Dr. Russell Toomey, a University of Arizona professor who is transgender and sought coverage for a “medically necessary” surgery. The orders will now cover both former and current state employees and public university workers.

Starbucks workers to strike over bans on Pride decorations

After last week’s news that Starbucks was reportedly banning staff from putting up Pride decorations this Pride Month, comes the news that baristas from more than 150 stores in the US have been on strike this week, to demand a “fair contract and respect for LGBTQIA+ workers.” Starbucks Workers United (SWU) kicked off its nationwide week of action last Friday at Starbucks’ flagship roastery in Seattle, after reports that some Starbucks stores were allegedly removing or banning the use of Pride décor. Even though Starbucks has denied this, strike action saw at least 40 stores being forced to close over the weekend, while an average of 12 stores per day have been impacted throughout this week. Moe Mills, a shift supervisor who identifies as non-binary and has worked at Starbucks in Richmond Heights outside St. Louis, Missouri for over three years said: “The whole point of this strike is to let [Starbucks] know that they can’t cancel Pride.” Mills added: “We as the partners, and specifically of the union partners, are what makes Starbucks what it is, and we want people to know what Starbucks isn’t – that’s what strike with Pride is about.”

This article is part of a series called The Most Interesting HR Stories of the Week.