Workflex Works in Manufacturing


“Workflex and manufacturing don’t mix,” is a comment I constantly hear from manufacturers during my travels across the country promoting When Work Works, the joint project of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Families and Work Institute (FWI). The project explores ways to reinvent work and create more effective and flexible workplaces — or workflex for short — and my job is to get the message out about how to make workflex work.

From Hawaii to Maine, no matter where I go to speak about workflex, someone in the audience raises their hand and says, “This is great information, but it doesn’t apply to us because workflex can’t work in manufacturing.” 

It is time to shatter this misperception and change the conversation to reflect the true reality that workflex is possible in manufacturing. Our new resource guide Workflex in Manufacturing: More Than a Dream will show you how manufacturers that have gotten creative about flexible work are reaping the benefits through improved employee job satisfaction, and increased productivity.

For example:

Kraft Foods found that hourly workers in manufacturing plants were the least satisfied of all employee groups with work/life integration, so they revamped their vacation policies. Now, instead of using vacation time in large chunks, employees can take vacation in one-day increments and use shift swapping to address schedule conflicts.

PlastiCert, a custom plastic injection molding company, established programs with local community colleges to create part-time manufacturing jobs to attract college students, especially future engineers, to their plant. Not only do the students get work experience and a higher wage than many comparable part-time jobs in the area, but PlastiCert also gains a larger workforce to meet growing business needs and a boost in recruiting of future engineers to work at the company.

More success stories of how manufacturing organizations are making workflex work can be found in the guide, Workflex in Manufacturing: More Than a Dream. The guide is designed to help manufacturing leaders make workflex a reality for production employees in ways that make sense for their individual organizations. Many different types of workflex can work for manufacturers. Here are some suggestions from the guide:

  1. Flexible work hours allow employees to have more control of when they work, such as adjusting their start and stop times.
  2. Compressed work weeks fit more hours into fewer days per week allowing for more days off.
  3. Part time work allows employees to work fewer shifts in the week.
  4. Shift swapping allows employees to voluntarily exchange shifts or workdays to manage personal and work responsibilities.
  5. Alternative shift arrangements allow for a variety of shift schedules.
  6. Input into break arrangements allows employees some input into when they take breaks to better coincide with needs, such as medication schedules or checking on kids coming home from school.
  7. Split shifts allow employees to separate their shifts into two or more sections with a pause between each section.\
  8. Adjusted shifts allow coordination of start, stop and break times with employees’ schedules, such as transporting children to school.

For more information on how to make workflex a reality in your organization, join When Work Works on June 28 at the SHRM 2015 Annual Conference & Exposition in Las Vegas at the pre-conference workshop, Attracting and Retaining Talent in Manufacturing, which will address best practices in recruiting and retaining talent in the manufacturing industry and how manufacturers can create greater workplace flexibility among production line employees. And follow the conversation on social media via #WorkflexManufacturing.


The SHRM Blog does not accept solicitation for guest posts.

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