Six-Hour Shifts Satisfied Kellogg's Appetite For Productivity - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Feature
News
4/5/2002
06:28 AM
50%
50%

Six-Hour Shifts Satisfied Kellogg's Appetite For Productivity

When it comes to work hours and productivity, it's hard to imagine anything less than the eight-and-then-some-hour days we live today. But when historians and social scientists talk about the working life, they're certain to bring up the ultimate example of when less did equal more. Contemplate this work-redesign classic over your next bowl of corn flakes.

Inspired by reports that a six-hour shift increased productivity at an English soap company, Kellogg Co. founder W.K. Kellogg changed cereal-plant production schedules from three eight-hour shifts to four six-hour shifts in 1930. The initiative, championed by company president Lewis Brown, let the Battle Creek, Mich., company hire 300 workers who'd been put out of work in the Great Depression. Kellogg's existing workforce took a slight pay cut.

The company found that the shorter workday influenced employees to work harder and more efficiently. The results included drastic reductions in overhead costs, labor costs, and the number of work-related accidents. Unit cost of production "is so lowered we can afford to pay as much for six hours as we formerly paid for eight," Kellogg boasted in a newspaper in 1935.

Plant InteriorImprovement was even more dramatic outside the factory, in the town of Battle Creek. "For the first time they had real leisure," writes Benjamin Kline Hunnicutt, professor of leisure arts at the University of Iowa, in his book, Kellogg's Six-Hour Day (Temple University Press, 1996). Parents spent more time with their children, in the neighborhood, and at libraries. Women gardened, canned, sewed, and made ice cream; men played baseball and softball, hunted, and farmed.

In 1943, the labor shortage and product demand brought on by World War II pushed the company back to an eight-hour workday. Union support helped restore the six-hour day immediately after the war, but many workers, most of them men, rallied for eight hours and correspondingly larger paychecks. Hunnicutt contends that growing consumerism helped deflect Americans' attention from leisure time in the postwar era, and that the business community worked to keep the focus on business rather than leisure.

The mortal wound for the six-hour program, Hunnicutt says, was the 1947 decision to let each plant department determine its hours. But it wasn't till 1985, more than 50 years after the program's inception, that the last 530 workers gave up their six-hour shifts at the plant.

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
2021 State of ITOps and SecOps Report
This new report from InformationWeek explores what we've learned over the past year, critical trends around ITOps and SecOps, and where leaders are focusing their time and efforts to support a growing digital economy. Download it today!
InformationWeek Is Getting an Upgrade!

Find out more about our plans to improve the look, functionality, and performance of the InformationWeek site in the coming months.

News
Pandemic Responses Make Room for More Data Opportunities
Jessica Davis, Senior Editor, Enterprise Apps,  5/4/2021
Slideshows
10 Things Your Artificial Intelligence Initiative Needs to Succeed
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  4/20/2021
News
Transformation, Disruption, and Gender Diversity in Tech
Joao-Pierre S. Ruth, Senior Writer,  5/6/2021
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Planning Your Digital Transformation Roadmap
Download this report to learn about the latest technologies and best practices or ensuring a successful transition from outdated business transformation tactics.
White Papers
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Sponsored Video
Flash Poll