One Year Later: Ford Employees Share Their COVID-19 Experiences

For Bob Bedard, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a journey – a marathon we need to pace ourselves for so we don’t suffer long-term losses for short-term gains.

His son, Andrew, is 17 and is immune-compromised – meaning his family doesn’t really know what COVID would do to him, making it important to take COVID-19 precautions seriously.

“He’s our oldest, but for whatever reason, he typically picks up things easier than our other kids do,” said Bedard, supervisor, Additive Manufacturing Plastics, Research & Innovation Center. “That’s why we’ve had to be very mindful while sheltering in place.”

That’s why it’s been a blessing to work for a company like Ford, which has put the health and safety of its employees and their families first, he said.

“As employees, our first duty is to care for our own families,” Bedard said. “Because of my son’s health, we’ve had to take some extra measures to protect him. When the pandemic started, I was able to arrange with my management to collect and clear early on an off day before there were lots of people in the building doing the same.”

Bedard Family

Since then, Bedard said his team has been fantastic, capable of being flexible and running point on certain projects in the office when he has been unable to for his son’s sake.

“As a result, I haven’t had to feel stressed that my work was suffering by working from home, and it’s been a positive experience,” he said.

Bedard was promoted into a leadership role in February, allowing him to see this pandemic from the perspective of both team member and team leader.

“I’ve been blessed with a great team to work with, and now to lead,” he said. “There’s one thread of continuity linking those roles – no matter if I was on their team or if I was leading it, my team is still willing to help get the job done. I’ve amped up my involvement with each person on my team on a personal level. I want to make sure they feel valued, not just for the work they do, but for their personal matters as well. I want to work with each of my direct reports to make sure they know they’re cared for – that their work is valued, but so is the commitment take care of their families.”

The biggest surprise about working from home for Bedard is how much he’s enjoyed being around his family all day; his wife works from home as well, and his five kids take classes online.

“I wasn’t sure how we’d all fit in the house all day,” he said, “but it turns out being able to see each other during the day as opposed to just mornings and evenings is great and I’ve really enjoyed it.”

Bedard hopes that as time goes by, Ford will embrace a balance of working from home and reporting to the office. Because with a flexible schedule, an assignment can be deferred until the evening, but a kid’s event in the middle of the afternoon – like a band concert or a sporting event – can’t wait. “If you miss it, it’s gone forever,” he said.

“But before we start thinking about the future, we need to finish this pandemic marathon first,” Bedard added. “That light at the end of the tunnel has motivated me throughout the past year. We started strong at Ford, so let’s finish strong.”

Curt Frizzell

When Curt Frizzell and his colleagues came back to work after the first COVID-19 shutdown, there was a lot of discussion at Michigan Assembly Plant about how filling out surveys and performing temperature checks every time they entered the building.

“But we adapted,” said Frizzell, MP&L team leader at Michigan Assembly Plant – Stamping, “and we make sure each other stays safe.”

At the beginning of this pandemic, Frizzell was one of the crew that went to Rawsonville to help Ford manufacture ventilators, making him one of five people in my family on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“That includes one of my daughters and her husband, who work at Sparrow Hospital in East Lansing, as well as my daughter that works as a social worker at Beaumont Wayne Hospital,” he said. “My wife also works as a dental receptionist in Northville.”

Frizzell was even featured in a documentary called “On the Line” about the company’s response to the pandemic.

“I was honored to be chosen for that documentary,” he said. “I would’ve done that work for free if I had to – this is our country, and we have to protect it when duty calls.”

Frizzell said this pandemic taught him the importance of staying safe around the people he loves.

“I had a few family members that had COVID,” he said. “They survived, but two of my friends my age did not. You learn to respect your body and understand how you feel. I’ve been tested for COVID-19 several times over the past year.”

As a team leader, Frizzell said he takes care of nine people on his team. They respect him, what he does and how he works, and they know if they need anything that he’ll get it to them if he can.

“What I’ve learned about my team is that they respect these pandemic restrictions,” he said. “They’ll wear masks, and they’ll get checked out to keep the rest of us safe. They’ve come in every day for work despite the pandemic and we watch out for each other. We keep separated on breaks, taking different lunches at different times. As soon as my team’s lunches are over, they put their masks and safety glasses back on and get back to work.”

He said if someone’s not feeling right, his team will make sure they take care of themselves and step up to cover that person’s position.

“We all step in to work together,” Frizzell said. “If it’s twice as hard, it’s twice as hard – but we want everybody to be safe.”

Same goes for the company itself.

“I’m a Ford lifer – I’ve worked for Ford Motor Company for 31 years with more to go and I come into this plant smiling every day,” he said. “Ford has taken every precaution necessary and I respect its decision regarding us wearing masks, as well as not wanting the company to shut down to keep the business alive.”

Frizzell said that outside of work, it was tough at the beginning because he and his family were home all the time. But that sparked him to reach out and help those around him.

“I ended up helping out my neighbors a lot,” he said. “Since I’m diabetic and was eligible for the early 7 a.m. shopping hours at grocery stores, I would go grocery shopping for my kids and neighbors who couldn’t get out too often, which included finding them toilet paper when shelves were mostly empty. In the winter, I would help my neighbors clear their snow so they didn’t have to go outside – just trying to help thy neighbor.”

Throughout this pandemic, Frizzell’s motivation has been his four grandkids, with another one on the way. His wife and kids as well, and of course his UAW-Ford team.

“My goal is to be safe while still going to work and enjoying what I do,” he said. “We’re almost through this, so we need to keep up the good work, stay strong and be healthy – and remember to help thy neighbor and help thy co-worker.”

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