Research-backed benefits of flexible shift schedules in an industrial space

November 8, 2022 Christina DeBusk

Logistic warehouse worker delivering boxes on a trolley

Employee schedules in an industrial environment are typically fairly rigid. Each shift has a certain time to show up and punch in, along with a predesignated time to end the workday, with very little flexibility (if any).

While this makes sense from an operational standpoint as it creates an uninterrupted work process, there are a few benefits of allowing flexible shift schedules and research confirms it.

Higher employee retention levels

A 2020 study in Economic Insights – Trends and Challenges looked at five manufacturing industries. It found that, when offered a flexible work arrangement, employee retention increased. This can be incredibly helpful during the looming worker shortage.

Getting employees to stay also reduces the time and costs associated with filling open positions. This includes those related to posting the job, conducting interviews, hiring, onboarding and training.

Greater appeal to Gen Z applicants

If you’re hiring and want to appeal to applicants born from 1997 onward, also known a Generation Z, research indicates that flexible working hours are one factor that this group finds attractive when looking for work.

Include this information in your marketing materials, also mentioning it in your job posts. Let applicants know upfront about this benefit, which can make you a preferred employer over other industrial companies that still follow a more rigid schedule.

Increases in workplace performance

The 2020 study that made the connection between flexible schedules and greater retention also found that manufacturing employees with access to scheduling flexibility had improvements in their work performance.

Improved performance can mean productivity increases, fewer mistakes and errors, boosts in efficiency and a smoother workflow. Deadlines are met with greater ease and productivity goals are achieved.

Better health and work longevity for older employees

Although the two may seem unrelated, a 2021 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology reports that older employees had higher perceptions of their health status when given flexible work schedules. Not only that, but they also used fewer sick days.

When employees aren’t sidelined by illness, they are less likely to call in due to feeling unwell and have the physical fortitude to do their best while on the job. A 2020 study adds that older adults will even stay on the job longer if their schedule is flexible.

Improved work-life balance

Working in an industrial facility often means dealing with one or more peak seasons per year. During these times, employees can struggle to balance work and home. A 2017 study in Global Business & Management Research reveals that having a flexible work schedule helps improve work-life balance.

Purdue University shares that, when employees have this balance, companies enjoy reduced turnover rates and increased talent attraction while boosting the overall effectiveness of the organization.

Flexible shift schedule options

If you are interested in trying flexible shift scheduling within your industrial space, there are a few ways you can do this:

  • Allow certain employees to work remotely or telecommute some days of the week, such as those who work in computer-based roles that don’t require them to be on the premises.
  • For roles that don’t require someone to continuously fill that position (non-line jobs), enable employees to come in an hour early and leave an hour early or come in an hour late and leave an hour late. Or allow them to take a few hours off one day and make them up on another.
  • In roles where someone always needs to be in that position (like line jobs), let employees assigned to that station work with each other to create a more flexible schedule as long as they get their time in each week and the work is covered.

We can help you build a flexible shift schedule that works for your operation. Get in touch with our team today to learn more.

About the Author

Christina M. DeBusk creates small business content for a variety of publications, some of which include Businessing Magazine, Compendent, Chiropractic Economics, and more. She is also the author behind the column, "The Successful Solopreneur.

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