The Manufacturing Technology Centre has announced it will permanently implement flexible working including a four-day week following a large-scale, two-year trial which saw more than half of employees report higher productivity.
The MTC’s 820 employees can now opt for a four day week under the centre’s Fully Flexible Working Week initiative
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 MTC.
“We explored a range of options, including researching what was important for millennials and generation Z, as 79 per cent 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 around 615 employees across the organisation.
As a result of these measures, 83 per cent of employees reported that they were happier, 42 per cent said their energy levels had increased, and 40 per cent 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 Vicki Sanderson. “After 12 months of the trial, 96 per cent 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,” she said.
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 MTC, 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.”
The MTC was founded by the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and TWI Ltd. The MTC’s industrial members include some of the UK’s major global manufacturers.
The MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy. The MTC is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK.