Remote Work Policies for Salaried Employees
Shifting Towards Hybrid Models?
Manufacturing has historically relied on in-person operations, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted the status quo, and companies found ways to send workers home and maintain productivity. While many factory floor roles were considered essential—and virtually all shopfloor employees were back in the factory by Summer 2020—much of the professional staff handling front and back office functions adopted remote work policies to keep businesses running.
As the pandemic waned, many organizations continued various remote work strategies for professional staff, and workplace flexibility has become a recruitment and retention tool. To stay competitive for talent, manufacturing companies continue reassessing their remote work strategies and considering changes. Manufacturers Alliance surveyed manufacturing leaders on their remote work policies to shed light on the current considerations and emerging trends within the sector.
Permanent hybrid work models (such as three days in office, two working remotely) have gained traction across industries. Recent data from McKinsey’s American Opportunity Survey reveals a significant increase in remote work adoption, with 58% of workers having access to work from home at least one day per week. According to a study by Harvard Business School, 81% of employees believe that a hybrid work model is the ideal work arrangement.
83% of salaried (professional) manufacturing survey respondents favored a mix of in-person and remote work arrangements. Among the remainder, 11% reported employees in their companies are in the office full time, and 6% work fully remote. The respondents believe that hybrid schedules improve work-life balance, increase job satisfaction, and enhance productivity.
Hybrid models were reported as the top option across all corporate team sizes, showcasing its importance across department and company sizes.
While only a small percentage of manufacturing employees are working full remote, it’s worth noting that there are a handful of specific activities or events that managers expect all employees to attend in person, including company retreats, new employee training, meetings, performance evaluations, and other important communications.
As manufacturing navigates towards a new normal, leaders are finding continuous evaluation and adaptation of remote work policies important. Recent publications suggest regularly assessing policies to align with changing employee needs and evolving industry best practices. HR professionals are suggesting that incorporating feedback loops and providing opportunities for employee engagement can ensure the ongoing success of remote work initiatives.
The survey finds that executive leadership team, department heads, and business unit leaders are the primary decision-makers shaping remote work policies for each team. This suggests that organizational leaders, at various levels, have significant influence and decision-making authority in establishing remote work guidelines within their respective domains.
A significant proportion of teams have adopted a hybrid work model, with team members typically required to be in the office two to three days a week. However, there are variations in office attendance requirements based on role, location, and individual circumstances, with some teams having more flexibility or less frequent obligations for in-office presence.
Remote work policy changes in manufacturing are influenced by many factors. Company culture is a consideration as well as productivity. (While there is some disagreement among analysts, a McKinsey study found that remote work can enhance productivity by 20-25%.
Top-down mandates from executive leadership teams, such as the CEO, are reported as influential in 42% of survey responses. This suggests that companies see the need for aligning remote work policies with broader organizational objectives. Additionally, many see remote work policies as increasingly becoming a competitive advantage in attracting and retaining top talent in the manufacturing industry, as highlighted by 33% of respondents.
72% of individuals are satisfied or somewhat satisfied with their current remote work policy. This indicates a positive sentiment among employees towards their organization's approach to remote work, suggesting that the implemented policy is meeting the needs of most respondents.
More than 3/4 of team leaders (77%) reported that their current remote work policy is effective or somewhat effective. Team leaders find the policies to be successful driving desired outcomes and meeting their team's needs, but there may still be room for improvement or areas where further enhancements can be made.
While most respondents seemed content with current remote work policies, a notable minority is actively considering modifications. Those that are planning to make changes to their policies reported a potential shift towards a more traditional office-based work setup, including requiring employees to be present in the office on a full-time basis (33%). At least a third of companies are considering increasing the number of days that employees are required to be in the office.
Some tension may occur with differing remote work expectations across roles and teams. 44% of companies reported no tension, but 37% expressed uncertainty or acknowledged the existence of tension. This indicates that almost half of organizations have managed to establish a remote work policy that does not lead to conflict or resentment.
Survey respondents shared some tips to reduce tension:
Whatever work model companies embrace, the situation is fluid with shifting attitudes and needs. Many organizations are continuously evaluating their remote work policies to ensure they are creating a work environment that matches their corporate culture. Many HR professionals believe maintaining some remote work options is essential for talent competitiveness.
HR professionals also believe continued, periodic assessments of hybrid work policies help identify collaborative technologies and communication platforms for employee connections, and might spotlight additional areas of flexibility that can help ease resentment for those employees that can’t work remotely. By asking the question, “What CAN we offer to help with a specific need or request,” companies can challenge their own status quo.