The Manufacturing Technology Centre
(MTC), a leading research and technology organisation that supports manufacturers to adopt some of the world’s most advanced manufacturing equipment, 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.
Vicki Sanderson, HR Director at the MTC, said: “We have been operating flexible working patterns since April 2018, but employee engagement surveys have shown that staff wanted to extend this further. 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 MTC will formally 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.
Ms Sanderson added: “We know that in manufacturing especially, it is 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.”Sustainability goals
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, chief executive of the MTC (pictured), 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 Ia 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.