Last year, GM introduced its flexible ‘Work Appropriately’ standard, which allows the automaker’s white-collar employees to work from home and only come into the office when they feel like it, or when it’s needed to attend meetings or other in-person engagements. This policy has allowed GM to expand its pool of potential talent by enabling it to hire individuals from outside Michigan, but it has had the unfortunate knock-on effect of leaving its iconic Renaissance Center headquarters in downtown Detroit feeling eerily empty.
A recent report from The Detroit Free Press sheds light on the difficult decision GM faces with the Renaissance Center, which the automaker purchased from a hotel company in 1996. Since many of GM’s Detroit-based white-collar employees exercise its Work Appropriately standard, the Renaissance Center sits mostly empty on any given weekday. This has left GM in a bit of an awkward spot, as many of the building’s tenants, including office space renters, as well as food vendors and shops, have now departed the facility or are considering doing so due to the decrease in foot traffic.
While she didn’t say the automaker was looking to depart the sprawling complex, GM CEO Mary Barra would only commit to GM’s near-term future in the Ren Cen during an interview with the Free Press last month.
“Right now, our plans are to be in the Ren Cen,” Barra said. “We’ve updated many of the floors. But, um, I think we are focused… we don’t occupy the whole Ren Cen, we’re a couple of towers right now. But that’s our home, that’s what we’re creating into open space.”
A spokesperson for GM, Maria Raynal, told The Detroit Free Press that it’s “still too soon to say what the return-to-office scenario looks like,” for GM as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are still being felt. It seems unlikely the automaker will abandon its Work Appropriately policy, though – a popular standard that has expanded the automaker’s talent pool and one that even GM CEO Mary Barra has implemented herself.
While the Ren Cen’s future looks rocky, Barra told the Free Press the automaker has no plans of abandoning its home city.
“Detroit’s our home and the headquarters of General Motors will always be in Detroit,” she said.