Mazda Offers Virtual-First Workspace to its Staff at US Headquarters in Irvine

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Main News Photo

(Los Angeles Daily News)

The pandemic is cutting another workforce free of its office space.

Mazda’s U.S. headquarters in Irvine is switching many of its employees to a “virtual-first workplace.”

The automaker has 530 employees in Irvine who’ve mostly been working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, Mazda North American Operations, as it’s known officially, made the flexible work environment a permanent feature for employees in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.

“Like many companies, the pandemic has changed our traditional ways of working,” MNAO President and Chief Executive Jeff Guyton said. “There is a strong link between business culture and business results, and we believe our virtual-first workplace concept enables everyone to contribute from where they feel most productive.”

Guyton was named CEO of MNAO in May and assumed the role in late June. He was previously president, succeeding Masahiro Moro, who returned to Mazda Motor Corp.’s home base in Hiroshima, Japan, as chief communications officer.

The automaker’s U.S. base has been in Irvine since 1987, and in 2017, it moved to a swanky, four-story hub within the 20-story office tower at 200 Spectrum owned by Irvine Co. The space is loaded with modern touches such as “huddle rooms,” wood flooring, mood lighting, conversation nooks and a barista who makes specialty coffees for staffers.

MNAO joins a myriad of other California employers offering remote work on a permanent basis. Salesforce, Twitter, Slack, Facebook, Adobe, Coinbase, Quora, and Reddit are among some of the larger companies that have said employees can work from home or a corner Starbucks, so long as the work gets done.

It’s been a busy year for the automaker, which in February was named the most reliable auto brand in the U.S., according to Consumer Reports. The annual tabulation is based on road tests, reliability data, owner satisfaction surveys, and safety performance. Mazda rose three spots in the rankings to knock Porsche out of the top spot, a first for the company.

Mazda also reported a sharp rise in U.S. sales this summer compared with the same period a year ago when few people were out kicking tires at dealerships. In the latest data available, sales in July rose 45% with 221,906 vehicles sold compared with July 2020. The automaker’s CX-5, a midsize SUV, continues to be the brand favorite with 16,299 vehicles sold in July.

In a nod to the growing demand for gasoline-free vehicles, Mazda in late October will debut its first all-electric vehicle, the 2022 Mazda MX-30 EV. With an estimated range of 100 miles on a full charge, the starting price will be $33,470. The crossover SUV will be available first in California.

Adding to the company’s plate, its $2.3 billion U.S. assembly plant in Huntsville, Ala., a partnership with Toyota, is gearing up for production. The companies are looking to hire 2,400 people to a total of 4,000, which could be problematic as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc on the labor market. Toyota’s Corolla Cross will be the first vehicle off the Apollo assembly line in Huntsville. Mazda will make SUVs on the Discovery assembly line.

Janette Hostettler, vice president for production at Mazda Toyota, told The Huntsville Times in June that hiring is “quite the challenge.”

“But we’ve got such a competitive edge, I feel,” she said.

The Southern California Newsgroup asked Mazda more about its virtual workspace and what it means for its U.S. employees.

Q: How many employees will work virtually on a regular basis?

A: Employees and their managers can create tailored schedules that best fit their needs and the company’s needs, allowing them to be remote, onsite, or work in a hybrid model.

In-person work opportunities will be available as needed through MNAO worksites across North America, which will function as hubs for employee collaboration and more.

Q: Will there be a number of in-person days required weekly/monthly at the Irvine HQ or elsewhere?

A: No requirements. The virtual structure will allow for greater internal career opportunities across the organization without relocation restrictions for eligible positions.

Q: How will this alter the 113,000 square-footprint of the MNAO HQ in Irvine?

A: MNAO will retain its current office space at 200 Spectrum Center Drive.

Q: Will the company still use hotel desks for in-person workdays?

A: Employees will have the ability to utilize open workspaces as well as focus rooms and collaboration spaces. We have implemented measures at our facilities nationwide to ensure safety and cleanliness, and we continue to work with our business partners to respond as the situation evolves.

We completed an evaluation of the workplace early in the pandemic for COVID safety. We do not have plans to alter our workplace related to the new virtual model.

About Mazda North American Operations

The U.S. division is based in Irvine and oversees all of the sales, marketing, parts, and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

The automaker has some 780 dealers in the nation.

The Japanese company espouses a term called “mendomi,” which translates to taking care of its workers.

The Irvine HQ has 16 private offices, 365 workstations, one free coffee bar, five wellness rooms, nine neighborhood hubs, 13 “think tanks,” 44 focus rooms (private workspace), and 50 huddle rooms (collaboration space).

The MX-30 EV  will be available as both a fully electric model and a series plug-in-hybrid, featuring a rotary engine. Additional information can be found at mazdausa.com

Category: Virtual Workspace, COVID-19, Automotive News, Workforce, Irvine, Irvine Spectrum, Irvine Company, Mazda