When you think of flexible work, certain industries and specific jobs automatically come to mind. Writing, administrative work, research, accounting, web design — these are all fields where flex really works.

But what about manufacturing? Typically thought of as a hands-on field (which it certainly is), it doesn’t seem like flexible work would be a viable option in manufacturing. 

That’s about to change, thanks in great part to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Families and Work Institute (FWI). Together, they have released a toolkit that is designed to enable employers in the manufacturing field to offer flex-work to its workers.

“Offering flex-work is not only possible in manufacturing, it’s successful,” said Lisa Horn, director of congressional affairs at SHRM and leader of its Workplace Flexibility Initiative.

Manufacturing companies are quickly joining the flexible work movement. They are adopting — and adapting to — flex-work to make it work for their organizations as well as their employees. 

For example, Kraft Foods implemented a flex policy meant to improve work/life integration for its hourly workers in manufacturing plants (who were also reported to be the least satisfied with their work arrangements). 

Kraft now allows its workers to take vacation days as one-day vacation days, or as grouped vacation days. Additionally, workers can swap shifts with coworkers when they need a day off for personal reasons.

Another manufacturing company, PlastiCert, created part-time manufacturing jobs aimed at attracting college students — in particular, future engineers. In addition to receiving some real-world experience, the students also reportedly earn higher wages than other part-time positions in the area.

The manufacturing industry is learning how to make flexible work a reality. The guide “Workflex in Manufacturing: More Than a Dream” illustrates how the manufacturing industry can incorporate flex in a variety of ways, including:

  • Offering flexible working hours that are in sync with an employee’s personal schedule, such as getting children to school or picking them up
  • Holding discussions as to when shift breaks should be to better coincide with employees’ needs
  • Creating compressed work weeks in which workers can work longer hours in fewer days, thereby allowing them to have more days off
  • Facilitating split shifts to give employees the opportunity to separate their shifts into two or more sections, giving them a break in-between
  • Creating part-time positions that give employees the chance to work fewer, lengthier shifts each week
  • Encouraging shift-swapping so that employees can balance their work lives with their personal lives.

In addition to helping manufacturing workers find work-life balance, the national SHRM-FWI partnership plans to roll out a series of guides as part of the When Work Works project to help facilitate workplace flexibility across industries.

All it takes is a little innovation to incorporate flex-work into your company, no matter what type of industry it is.

Jennifer Parris

Flex Job

Jennifer Parris writes for FlexJobs  with a strong focus on workplace flexibility, trending news stories, gender pay gap issues, work-life balance for working parents and other topics that relate to flexible work.