Harley-Davidson is letting employees work from home on what may become a permanent basis. Harley’s Milwaukee headquarters closed in 2020 due to the global pandemic, but Harley CEO Jochen Zeitz says the complex is going to be repurposed rather than reopened for workers, according to Bloomberg.
Harley-Davidson continues to surprise with forward-thinking changes. First, the motorcycle company embraced EV motorcycles, spinning off the LiveWire brand to reportedly prevent its EVs from being overshadowed by legacy models. Now, Harley is fully embracing remote work and the flexibility and openness it brings, as the H-D CEO explains:
“Having the ability to just push a button wherever that person sits, get that person online, or create a meeting — that is not defined by which floor you sit on and who’s in the corner office,” Zeitz said in an interview at Bloomberg’s New York headquarters. “It democratizes the way we work together and allows you to bring the best talent into the company, no matter where they sit.”
Zeitz came to the conclusion that remote work is no less productive than office work, which would mean forcing employees to come back to a fixed workplace where they can nonetheless “be very disengaged.” Not to mention the difficulty a return to office entails for many, including Zeitz who’s a father of two and splits his time between his home in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and ranch outside of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Maybe even more than “inclusive” and “democratizing,” however, Harley’s remote work policy is an enticing benefit for would-be employees, which the motorcycle maker needs to get its LiveWire brand going. Zeitz has already recruited engineers from EV companies like Rivian and Tesla. And a work from home policy not even those tech/auto companies can match is quite the draw.
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LiveWire’s research and development facilities are in Silicon Valley, while its engineering and product development is in Milwaukee and assembly plant is in York, Pennsylvania. With such a wide swath of the U.S. between each of its hubs, it’s no wonder the company stands to benefit from remote workers.
The CEO admits that working in person with others is still valuable, but as Bloomberg reports, Zeits says these face-to-face exchanges must have a clear purpose, and an agenda that goes beyond a meeting behind a computer screen. Otherwise, what’s the point?
Neither Harley-Davidson nor the CEO have specified exactly what its 500,000-square-foot complex in Milwaukee will become, but the company insists the location will remain an important location for Harley’s presence in the U.S.
It’s just ironic that the ostensibly old-fashioned motorcycle company is all in favor of remote work, which is a pointed and sharp contrast to other companies like Apple and Tesla that boast of having a modern workplace, and yet are still stuck in a past lined with cubicles overseen by a corner office.