At GM, blue and white collar give way to remote and on-site

General Motors assembly workers connect a battery pack underneath a partially assembled 2018 Chevrolet Bolt EV vehicle on the assembly line at Orion Assembly in Lake Orion, Michigan, U.S.

General Motors Co(GM.N) on Tuesday outlined plans to allow remote work after the pandemic, in part to cast a wider net for recruiting programmers, marketers and other talent needed for its connected, electric vehicle strategy.

“The future of jobs will not be a one-size fits all approach,” the automaker said in a statement explaining its “Work Appropriately” program to cover 155,000 employees worldwide.

Instead, many employees will be allowed to keep working remotely, coming to an office as needed, as long as their tasks are not tied to assembly lines or on-site equipment.

That would allow GM to recruit a programmer who lives in Boston without requiring that employee to move, GM global talent acquisition director Cyril George told reporters on a videoconference.

In North America, GM has already sought to expand its recruiting footprint beyond its Detroit area base by setting up “innovation centers” for employees in technical and marketing fields in Austin, Texas; Chandler, Ariz. and Roswell, GA.

GM’s more flexible approach to office attendance reflects a broader rethinking of traditional workplace practices across industries, accelerated by the pandemic.

For Detroit automakers, an archaic class system of “blue collar” manufacturing workers and “white collar” salaried employees is giving way to a new distinction: Those who must work on-site, and those who can do their jobs remotely.

Technology adopted during the pandemic has expanded the universe of GM employees who can work from a distance.

Members of the team that developed the GMC Hummer EV were able to remotely monitor testing of a prototype at the company’s Milford, Michigan test track, said Jeff Massimilla, executive director of connected customer and mobility solutions.

GM officials said the new workplace approach is not aimed at shrinking the automaker’s office space, and declined to say what cost impact flexible work policies could have.

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