From The Editor

Will Flexibility on the Floor Become the New Norm?

By on
MCN Editor Dan Markham It is, in many corners, a truism, that while service center operations can introduce more work hour flexibility for the office staff, the same isn’t true out on the floor. 

But is it? 

The National Association of Manufacturers wondered just that. The trade group commissioned a study to see whether flexibility is an option for those men and women operating the machinery at the heart of every manufacturing facility.
Somewhat surprisingly, it’s already happening. Though sales, purchasing and other office personnel remain more likely to be working outside the traditional five-day, eight-hour, on-site set up, innovative companies are also bringing options to the blue collar side of the business. A five-month study, surveying 17 separate manufacturers, explored just what is being done to expand work schedule options and how best to implement any changes. 

The most prominent choices include flexible scheduling within the standard work week, remote work and compressed work weeks. Within the latter, companies are offering four nine- or 10-hour days in place of the standard five eight-hour days. Some have even experimented with super-compressed three-day weeks.
The NAM study offers five pre-enactment recommendations to follow before anything is implemented: 
  • Identify the objectives that your company hopes to achieve in providing workplace flexibility by focusing on the challenges that you would like to solve, whether it’s increasing the number of applicants or reducing turnover and absenteeism. 
  • Define your company’s workplace flexibility philosophy. This philosophy should account for the full range of employee types in your organization, including the constraints and needs specific to those populations.
  • Determine what flexibility options your company would like to test by assessing your company’s production needs and employee priorities and interest in various approaches. 
  • Map a communication strategy to launch your flexibility options with supervisors and production workers.
  • Consider how you will evaluate the success of the flexibility options that your company wants to test before implementation. Conceptualize a system for tracking the metrics and compare your progress to your baseline.
Attracting and retaining talent has been one of the chief challenges faced by all parts of the industrial economy the last few years, and demographic factors suggest that will remain the case. Exploring alternates to the standard work week, even if it flies in the face of everything you want to do as an employer, should be considered. 

“For manufacturers that want to attract and retain talent effectively, offering workplace flexibility to production workers acts as a crucial differentiator in a tight labor market and can help expand access to various talent pools,” the NAM study concludes.