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Boeing asks Commercial Airplanes workers to return to office 5 days a week

caption: The Boeing Renton Factory is shown on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Renton.
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The Boeing Renton Factory is shown on Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2020, in Renton.
KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Corporate workers for Boeing Commercial Airplanes will soon be expected to commute to the office five days a week, in one of the most sweeping in-person mandates from a big Seattle-area employer so far.

“Over the past two years, we have transitioned more employees to work in the office and are asking all Boeing Commercial Airplane employees to return to our pre-pandemic policy,” a Boeing spokesperson told KUOW.

Boeing workers have been bringing their concerns about the policy to their union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, according to communications staffer Bryan Corliss.

“We have heard from some of our members that they will leave Boeing if they are forced to be in office full-time,” Corliss said. “However, we wouldn't expect to see any actual resignations until the company actually mandates a full-time return to office.”

The mandate doesn’t appear to apply to other departments at Boeing, like space or defense. But for workers in the Commercial Airplanes group, the pandemic era of remote work is drawing to a close.

“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,” the Boeing spokesperson said. “Often, there’s no substitute for face-to-face collaboration and communication.”

Although Boeing said there isn’t a deadline for the policy to take effect, The Seattle Times reports that some employees have been told they will be expected back in the office five days a week after the holidays.

Other big employers in the Seattle region are trying to get employees back in the office more, through carrots and sticks. Amazon has reportedly begun firing and penalizing employees who don’t comply with its three-day-per-week mandate. Starbucks also requires employees to be in the office three days a week.

Managers often place a premium on in-person collaboration, but remote work advocates say that position isn’t supported by evidence that working from the office improves productivity. The union representing Boeing office workers says the data is on the side of flexibility.

“We believe the data shows that remote work has proven its value,” Corliss said.

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