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How Does the Shift Toward Remote Jobs Impact Manufacturing?

The rise of remote work has been one of the most significant trends in the modern workplace. Everywhere you turn in the labor sector, the question of remote or hybrid work looms. Accelerated by the pandemic, this shift has impacted various industries, including manufacturing. 

While manufacturing traditionally relies on physical presence for production tasks, the sector is experiencing a transformation as remote roles become more prevalent. 

So, how should a business like yours adapt?

As a hiring team, it’s crucial to understand these changes to better understand the evolving job market. What kinds of candidates will be coming your way in the future? This article explores how the shift toward remote jobs is reshaping the manufacturing industry, the opportunities it presents, and the challenges that need to be addressed.

Understanding the Shift to Remote Work

The shift toward remote work is driven by advancements in digital technologies, changing employee preferences (and changing generational values), and the need for flexibility. Cloud computing, advanced communication tools, and automation have made it possible for many tasks to be performed remotely. Employees increasingly value work-life balance and flexibility, which remote work can offer.

At its peak in April 2022, remote job postings accounted for 20.3% of total job postings, more than double the share in January 2021 and significantly higher than the 3-5% estimate for the pre-pandemic period, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. As of August 2023, approximately 20% of the U.S. workforce was telecommuting.

While production line jobs still require physical presence, many roles in manufacturing can be performed remotely. The production floor, in essence, can be brought to certain employees’ home offices.

These roles include:

  • Engineering and Design: Using CAD software, engineers can design products and systems from anywhere.
  • Supply Chain Management: Coordinating logistics, managing suppliers, and tracking inventory can be done remotely.
  • Customer Support and Sales: Handling customer inquiries, processing orders, and managing client relationships don’t require a physical office.
  • Data Analysis and IT Support: Analyzing production data, maintaining IT systems, and cybersecurity can be managed remotely.

In the global semiconductor market, for instance, AI and machine learning skills have begun to surpass traditional design engineering in importance

Opportunities Presented by Remote Work

Remote work offers greater flexibility, allowing employees to balance work and personal commitments better. This can lead to increased job satisfaction and retention. Hiring managers should consider how flexible work arrangements can be used as a tool for attracting and retaining top talent.

By offering remote positions, manufacturing companies can tap into a global talent pool, hiring skilled professionals who may not be willing or able to relocate. This opens up opportunities to attract highly specialized talent that might be scarce locally.

Reducing the need for physical office space and associated overhead costs can result in significant savings for manufacturing companies. Additionally, remote work can reduce commuting costs for employees, which can be a significant draw. Global Workplace Analytics estimated that if everyone with remote-compatible jobs worked remotely half the time, it would save over $700 billion annually, averaging $11,000 per employee per year.

And, not for nothing, according to McKinsey’s 2022 American Opportunity Survey, 87% of employees will choose a remote work option when offered. 

Is your business offering this option? Think about it. 

remote worker

Challenges of Remote Work in Manufacturing

One of the main challenges of remote work is ensuring that employees remain productive and can effectively collaborate with their teams. This requires robust digital infrastructure and clear communication channels. Hiring managers should be aware of the tools and practices that can facilitate effective remote collaboration.

Remote work can increase the risk of cybersecurity threats. Manufacturing companies need to implement strong security measures to protect sensitive information and maintain data integrity. Educate hiring managers about the importance of hiring IT professionals who can manage these security risks.

Fostering a strong company culture in a remote environment can be challenging. Companies need to find ways to build team cohesion and maintain employee engagement. Hiring managers should prioritize candidates who are self-motivated and capable of thriving in a remote work setting.

Adapting to the Remote Work Trend

To support remote work, manufacturing companies need to invest in technology solutions such as cloud-based collaboration tools, project management software, and secure communication platforms. Hiring managers should seek candidates with experience using these technologies.

Providing training for employees on remote work best practices and digital tools is essential. This ensures that employees can effectively perform their roles and stay connected with their teams. Offering continuous learning opportunities can also be a draw for potential hires.

Establishing clear remote work policies helps set expectations and guidelines for employees. These policies should cover aspects such as communication protocols, security measures, and performance metrics. Hiring managers should look for candidates who are adaptable and can thrive within these frameworks.


The shift toward remote work is reshaping the manufacturing industry, offering numerous opportunities while also presenting significant challenges. 

By embracing this trend and adapting to new ways of working, manufacturing companies can benefit from increased flexibility, access to a wider talent pool, and cost savings. However, success in this new landscape requires a proactive approach to maintaining productivity, ensuring security, and fostering a cohesive company culture. 

As the industry continues to evolve, those who effectively integrate remote work into their operations will be well-positioned for future success.

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