The COVID-19 pandemic permanently reshaped how we approach work across all industries, ushering in an era of hybrid work models—in-person and remote work. Initially, manufacturing faced unique challenges due to its dependency on on-site operations. But over the last few years, hybrid work has gained traction across the sector and opened new opportunities for flexibility and inclusivity.
This blog explores the challenges and opportunities brought by the advent of hybrid work in manufacturing. Whether your company has fully adopted a hybrid model or is in the early stages of considering it, we offer useful insights to reflect on as you evaluate your approach.
Challenges With Hybrid Work in Manufacturing
The shift to hybrid work in manufacturing poses several challenges, primarily around five key areas: communication, coordination, connection, creativity and culture—collectively called the 5C challenges. But don’t let them stand in your way – with the proper planning, you can avoid common pitfalls.
Hybrid work can create communication gaps between remote and on-site staff, potentially leading to a loss of invaluable casual interactions that promote team unity.
Successful communication in a hybrid environment requires intentional efforts to guarantee clarity, consistency and inclusivity in all messages, regardless of where team members are located. While essential, digital tools can also introduce persistent interruptions and workflow disruption due to real-time notifications. Thus, such devices should be used judiciously for team bonding and productivity.
Coordinating tasks and projects between remote and on-site team members can be more complicated in a hybrid setup. This complexity requires robust project management systems and close cooperation between team members to ensure tasks are completed efficiently and promptly.
The move to a hybrid model must factor in both institutional and humanistic elements. This includes job roles and tasks, employee preferences and project workflows.
Cultivating a sense of belonging in a hybrid workforce can be formidable. Engagement is crucial among all employees, whether they operate remotely or on-site.
The physical distance that hybrid work necessitates can make creating an inclusive culture that values all employees challenging. As such, companies must proactively work to develop unity-building activities and ensure each worker feels integral to the team, no matter their work locale.
Nurturing creativity within a hybrid work setting can only be possible with the right technology in place. Companies may need to revamp brainstorming and innovation processes, leveraging technology to facilitate creative ideation across hybrid and onsite teams. Framed in a positive light, this gives companies a chance to innovate and discover novel ways to stimulate employee creativity.
Maintaining a strong company culture is essential and can become more complex in a hybrid work setup. Shared values and a consistent focus on the organization's mission and vision are essential to keeping the culture alive. Engagement activities involving on-site and remote employees can help maintain cultural coherence.
Companies must remain vigilant to ensure that the culture remains robust, as it forms the backbone of how the company operates and is perceived internally and externally in the market.
Opportunities to Hybrid Work in Manufacturing
Despite the challenges we just outlined, the shift to hybrid work offers substantial opportunities.
1. Enhanced Flexibility
Autonomy in scheduling and selecting work locations can yield heightened job satisfaction, employee retention and overall productivity.
Further, it attracts a broader talent pool that values a balanced lifestyle between professional commitments and personal life. This is especially crucial in the manufacturing industry, where the ability to manage work hours can enhance employee morale and thus, productivity.
Attracting and retaining quality workers is a top issue in today's market. According to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) Q2 2023 Outlook Survey, 75% of manufacturers note that as the top challenge they are facing, and nearly 58% of manufacturers are exploring flexible scheduling options (e.g., compressed workweeks, adjusted shift times and split shifts), to better attract or retain employees.
2. Promotion of Diversity and Inclusion
Hybrid work frameworks can enhance diversity and inclusion in the manufacturing sector.
Providing opportunities to individuals who may face obstacles in conventional on-site roles, such as caregivers or those with disabilities, guarantees a diverse workforce. According to a recent McKinsey Research study, some traditionally underrepresented groups demonstrated an even stronger preference for hybrid work.
This approach not only brings a myriad of perspectives to problem-solving but also cultivates an inclusive culture that values each team member's distinctive input.
3. Financial Efficiency
The adoption of a hybrid work model has the potential to generate cost savings for your manufacturing company.
Savings can be realized through reduced need for physical space, lower utility bills and decreased employee relocation expenses. This financial efficiency can then be reinvested back into the business, potentially leading to advancements in technology, product development and enhanced employee benefits.
The shift to hybrid work necessitates a human-centric approach that considers jobs and tasks, employee preferences, projects and workflows and inclusion and fairness.
In response to these shifts, platforms like FactoryFix have stepped up to support manufacturing businesses in their talent acquisition processes. By offering an extensive network of over 800,000 qualified manufacturing professionals across the U.S., FactoryFix enables recruiters to quickly find the talent they need wherever they are hiring. Plus, FactoryFix’s AI-powered recruitment automation software facilitates screening, conversations and interview coordination.