MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A four-day workweek amongst some employee groups is in the experimental phase at DENSO’s largest manufacturing facility in the United States. That facility is located in East Tennessee.

Some employees at DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, Inc. are working four days a week (four, 10-hour shifts) instead of the standard five days. Others are working three days (three, 12-hour shifts). The facility in Blount County spans five manufacturing plants and employs more than 4,000 people that make various automotive and electronic products.

Mark Moses, vice president of Electrification Systems at DENSO's Maryville facility. (Photo: DENSO)
Mark Moses, vice president of Electrification Systems at DENSO’s Maryville facility. (Photo: DENSO)

Mark Moses, the vice president of Electrification Systems at DENSO’s Maryville facility, recently shared some insight as to how the company has been experimenting with four-day and three-day workweeks. The trial periods so far, Moses said, have garnered positive results.

“The program’s been a success, helping participating employees increase productivity and morale and explore new ways to balance their responsibilities between work and daily life. The added flexibility has also enhanced our inclusion efforts,” Moses said. “This is a trial period, but due to its success there is currently no end date identified.”

Of the more than 4,500 DENSO employees in Maryville, Moses said nearly 500 in production and logistics roles are participating: Roughly 400 are performing four-day 10-hour shifts while some 80-plus employees are working a three-day workweek (three, 12-hour shifts).

The shortened workweek trials began a year ago at the DENSO Maryville facility in the company’s effort to introduce a mix of work schedules to help them manage fluctuations in product demand, stabilize teams’ workloads, and give participating team members opportunities to try new work approaches, according to Moses.

“We recognize that people have a lot on their plate, at work and at home. Manufacturing can also be a complex work environment,” he said. “As a result, we developed this experimental program to not only see how we can offer employees more flexibility and support, but also increase the efficiency and productivity of our operations.”

The shortened workweek programs – both four-day and three-day – are ongoing. Moses said employees in production and logistics roles have the opportunity to transfer to the trial teams, while new hires joining DENSO in those areas can inquire about participation.

An employee performs job at DENSO facility in Maryville, Tenn. (Photo: DENSO)
An employee performs job at DENSO facility in Maryville, Tenn. (Photo: DENSO)

“Experimenting with different work schedules is another example of the many changes we’re making in Maryville to continue to transform into a manufacturing hub for electrification and safety systems,” Moses said. “These technologies will power the future of the automotive industry, so it’s an exciting time to be here, with many opportunities for growth. If you bring curiosity and work ethic, we’ll train you, work with you and help you succeed.”  

While the four-day workweek is known to result in several benefits to employees and employers, such as improving productivity, reducing burnout, and increasing respite, companies across the country appear to be dipping their toes in the water before fully diving into the workweek changes.

University of Tennessee professor Timothy P. Munyon, who specializes in management and is the Janet and Jeff Davis Faculty Research Fellow at Haslam College of Business says ongoing research on the 4-day workweek continues to show compelling evidence.

Munyon also said these structures can save lots of time, give employees flexibility that they desire or need, and also can change the organization’s orientation toward its people.

“Of course, this is primarily intended for knowledge work roles, but may be applicable to other forms of work too, including manufacturing,” Munyon said in an interview with WATE Digital earlier this year.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated.