Co-investigators: Robert Perrucci and Shelley MacDermid, Purdue University

Partner: Noel Beasley, UNITE
Bemis Company, Terre Haute, Indiana

Faculty: Sally Jane Kiser, PhD, assistant professor of labor studies, Indiana University
Jennifer Swanberg, PhD, assistant professor of social work, University of Kentucky

Pre-Doctoral Students: Ted Brimeyer, Department of Sociology
Erika King, Department of Child Development and Family Studies
Brian Ruby, Department of Sociology
Chiung-Ya Tang, Department of Child Development and Family Studies

Funding: Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, $423,000
Bemis Company Foundation, $30,000
ILGWU, $25,000

Term of Project: January 1, 2002-July 31, 2004

Description:This project studied the impact of shift work on workers, their families, and their community activities. The setting was a single manufacturing facility with approximately 900 employees. The first stage of the project involved collecting base-line data on workers and their families. The second stage involved a labor-management team effort to modify shift work arrangements. The third stage involved assessment of the impact of the intervention introduced in stage two.

Research Questions: The project is concerned with three main questions:

    1. How do workers experience working nonstandard schedules compared to regular daytime schedules? What are the implications for marital quality, family relationships, and interactions with children?

How do gender, family structure, and life cycle interact with reactions to shift work? How do the presence and ages of children influence families’ experiences with shift work?

  • How does worker and family participation in shaping alternative work arrangements affect their subsequent response to the time demands of work?


Relationship Building: Project staff established a significant presence at the research site. They were in the plant at least one day a week during both day and night shifts. A bulletin board, locked mailbox, and office space next to an employee lunchroom were designated for the project.

The project logo was on the bulletin board and mailbox, and it was printed on hats and shirts worn by research staff when in the plant. The team held meetings with union and management leadership and with production supervisors.

A joint statement about the partnership project, signed by three management and three union representatives, was mailed to the homes of all employees. A separate announcement from the TIME project staff was posted on company and union bulletin boards, and it was mailed to the homes of all employees.

Evidence of Impact: Data collection in the early stage of the project involved direct observation in the plant, informal discussions with hourly employees and supervisors, and six focus groups with 31 production employees. In December 2002, a questionnaire was administered to onsite production workers and mailed to homes (413 responded for a 58% participation rate). In May 2003, we distributed a questionnaire to supervisors and crew managers (18 responded for a 42% return). In June 2003, we mailed a questionnaire to the spouses/partners of all production workers (116 responded for a 23% return). These three questionnaires constituted baseline data.

In November 2003, we created a Smart Time Team composed of five upper/middle management staff members and five union leaders/members. The team met on a regular basis to review findings from the surveys and to discuss new initiatives designed to improve the quality of work and work-life. The agreed-upon initiatives were described in a report mailed to all production workers and supervisors. In April, June, and July 2005, we distributed second questionnaires to all production workers, supervisors, and spouses/partners (response rates were 41%, 70%, and 17% respectively).

In January 2006, we presented a preliminary draft of the project’s final report to a joint meeting of corporate-level management, plant management, and union officials. In June 2006, the final report was mailed to all hourly employees, supervisors, and managers. The labor-management-research partnership that was the basis for this project led to a number of new policies and practices in the plant that were designed to improve the quality of work-life. The new initiatives include greater flexibility in the use of vacation time, new in-plant policies on cell phone use, regular worker-supervisor meetings to discuss work-related issues, and greater worker discretion at their work stations.

The below publications, dissertations, and presentations have resulted from this project.

Perrucci, R., S. MacDermid, E. King, C. Tang, T. Brimeyer, K. Ramadoss, S. J. Kiser, and J. Swanberg. “The Significance of Shift Work: Current Status and Future Directions.” Journal of Family and Economic Issues 28 (December 2007): 600-17.

Perrucci, R., and S. MacDermid. “Time and Control in a 24/7 Environment: Clock Time, Work Time, Family Time.” In Workplace Temporalities: Research in the Sociology of Work, edited by Beth Rubin, 343-68. Bangalore: Elsevier, 2007.

Brimeyer, T. “Management-Labor Relations and the Influence of Age on Worker Commitment to Union and Company.” PhD diss., Purdue University, 2007.

Perrucci, R., and S. MacDermid. “Shift Work, Job Demands, and Quality of Work/Family Life: Does Worker Control Matter?” Unpublished paper.

Perrucci, R., and S. MacDermid. “Job Demands, Worker Control Patterns, and the Quality of Work/Family Life.” Presented at the meetings of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, Philadelphia, PA, August 12, 2005.

Ramadoss, K., S. MacDermid, R. Perrucci, S. J. Kiser, and J. Swanberg. Meetings of the National Council on Family Relations, Minneapolis, MN, November 8-11, 2006.

Brimeyer, T., and R. Perrucci. “Career Stages, Resources for Control, and Company Commitment.” Presented at the meetings of the American Sociological Association, Montreal, Canada, August 13, 2006.

Perrucci, R. and S. MacDermid. “Worker Discourse on Time and Control.” Presented at the meetings of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, New York, NY, August 11, 2007.