The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) has announced it will permanently implement flexible working measures including a four-day week, following a large-scale, two-year trial which saw 50% of employees report higher productivity.
The decision to trial the new approach followed an in-depth review of flexible working options, in response to employee feedback.
“We’ve been operating flexible working patterns since April 2018, but employee engagement surveys have shown that staff wanted to extend this further,” said Vicki Sanderson, HR Director at the Manufacturing Technology Centre.
“We explored a range of options, including researching what was important for millennials and generation Z, as 79% of our workforce fall into these categories. Work-life balance was the priority, and our survey results reflected this.”
Starting in April 2020, the Fully Flexible Working Week trial provided a range of flexible working arrangements – including a four-day week – to approximately 615 employees across the organisation.
As a result of these measures, 83% of employees reported that they were happier, 42% said their energy levels had increased, and 40% experienced improvements in their mental health, according to a staff survey. A separate external evaluation carried out by Loughborough University found that the reaction from employees had been “overwhelmingly positive”, and was a major draw for new recruits.
“The positive impact on staff was evident,” said Sanderson. “After 12 months of the trial, 96% wanted the Fully Flexible Working Week to be adopted permanently, and these changes have had a direct impact on improving the mental and physical wellbeing of our employees, while improving business productivity.”
Following the successful trial, the MTC will make its flexible working policies permanent from September for all 820 employees, with no reduction in salary. The MTC will now work with industrial partners, such as Rolls-Royce, Siemens, and Meggitt, to share data and the lessons that have been learnt from the trial.
“We know that in manufacturing especially, it’s very difficult for some roles to be offered flexibly, for example, the opportunity for more home working. But other ways to do this should be considered, and our study has proved this is possible,” said Sanderson.
The trial also found significant environmental benefits to flexible working. The MTC calculated that 664 tonnes of carbon would be saved annually from all employees making one fewer journey to work each week, illustrating how flexible working is another step towards helping the company meet its sustainability goals.
Dr Clive Hickman OBE, Chief Executive of the Manufacturing Technology Centre, said: “Flexible working has been the norm at the MTC long before the pandemic, but employees told us there was more we could do. The result is our Fully Flexible Working Week, including a four-day week, which I’m proud to be making permanent. The MTC is striving to become the most attractive employer in the country, and this is a big step towards achieving that.”
Dr Ella-Mae Hubbard, Lecturer at Loughborough University and author of the external evaluation, said: “It is clear from our study that there are strong feelings about the trial. For the MTC employees, the reaction has been overwhelmingly positive and for newer members of staff, these new policies were one of the main reasons that they joined the MTC.”
Andrew Peters, Managing Director at Siemens Digital Industries Congleton, said: “Siemens AG quickly committed to a permanent hybrid way of working and while this has provided many of our employees more flexibility, the management of this change has been of critical importance.
“Central to managing this has been lots of active listening, open communication, and empathetic leadership. We have taken an agile approach in making small changes, seeking lots of feedback from our employees before committing to bigger decisions. Alongside this, we are also dedicating more of our time to adapting and developing our culture.”
The MTC houses some of the most advanced manufacturing equipment in the world, creating a high quality environment for the development and demonstration of new technologies on an industrial scale. This provides a unique opportunity for manufacturers to develop new and innovative processes and technologies.