The pandemic has permanently altered Audi’s approach to remote work and will lead to a more flexible approach to hiring, CEO Markus Duesmann said in an interview with Automotive News Europe.
"It could be up to 30 percent of the white-collar workers who might continue to work from home," Duesmann told ANE. "Right now, more than half of our workforce is still at home. That excludes, of course, the blue-collar production staff."
A shift in policy towards remote working could also make Audi more competitive when attracting talent, Duesmann said. He said the company already employed engineers located outside Europe, describing more-flexible working conditions as "the new normal."
Despite the shift in strategy accelerated by the pandemic, Duesmann said he still believed there was a place for face-to-face work. "There is a certain benefit gained from working together in one location," he said.
One thing Duesmann said he would not miss in a shift to remote work is constant business travel.
"I'm head of our China business and it has not been possible to go there in the 15 months that I have been on the job -- and it works," he said. "This shows what's possible and how much business travel will change in the future. I hope I never ever travel as much again as I did before. I really will push to make sure that doesn’t happen again."
Other automakers are also moving toward formalizing remote work after finding that it was effective during pandemic shutdowns.
Renault recently reached a deal with unions on remote working in which up to 20,000 employees will be able to work from home for up to three days a week.
The new workplace arrangements will be rolled out in several stages, starting in September 2021, Renault said, adding it would offer support and training on how best to work remotely.
PSA Group, which merged with Fiat Chrysler to become Stellantis in January, had been moving to remote work for white-collar employees for several years. Last May it announced a series of rules that would apply to tens of thousands of employees worldwide.