UK manufacturing firms unprepared for the ‘new normal’ in the workplace


With the government now a week into its 50-page roadmap out of lockdown, a new report suggests that UK manufacturing firms were one of the least prepared sectors for the rise of flexible working pre-lockdown.

The research, which analysed thousands of job descriptions, employee reviews, and forums for the UK’s biggest businesses, suggests that manufacturing firms have a significant amount of work to do in order to thrive as lockdown restrictions are lifted and we acclimatise to the ‘new normal’.

Based on the ten biggest employers for 20 of the UK’s largest cities, the research identified the industries and locations that were leading the way in terms of flexible and remote working* for staff and which companies would need to make the most changes when we fully return to work.

Manufacturing firms were third worst for offering staff choice when it came to working hours with just the construction and engineering industries falling behind for offering flexible working hours. 

To calculate the rankings, content and thematic analysis was used to analyse thousands of employee reviews to provide an overall ranking score for flexible working, remote working and an overall score. The manufacturing sector scored just 2.7 out of 5 putting it third from bottom of the table ahead of construction and engineering.

The full rankings were as follows:

Employers in the banking, technology and aviation sectors topped the overall rankings, where staff were given the most opportunities to dictate their working hours and location.

Mita Patel, product and development director at global workforce management solutions provider Mitrefinch, which conducted the research, said:

“It’s no secret that the past couple of months have been some of the most challenging for UK businesses in recent years, and with some elements of restrictions likely due to remain in place upon lifting the full lockdown, there looks to be significant challenges in the months and years to come. 

“The difficulty with the manufacturing industry lies in the traditional nature of roles. Certain tasks can be challenging to perform remotely which leaves these industries falling behind as others make the shift to remote working. 

“However, although surprising to many, there are many manufacturing jobs that can be done remotely. For instance many administrative tasks can be offloaded to allow managers to use time on site more productively. We are expecting to see a shift like this in these sectors over the next few months.” 

*Flexible working relates to the ability of staff to choose their own working hours and remote working linked to the choice of location; working from home etc.

**Using and company job descriptions, the research used content and thematic analysis to analyse thousands of employee reviews to establish what the biggest employers in each city and industry are really offering in terms of flexible working to depict who, before the lockdown at least, was ready for flexible working and who is not. 

Results were then categorised into the following five ratings:


Poor reviews and inflexible, sometimes long hours


Negative reviews and complaints on flexibility


Average mixed feedback


Mostly positive reviews of flexibility


Outstanding flexibility offered to employees


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