How do employees prioritise when they schedule their own shifts?

Influence on the working hours is hypothesised to improve health and well-being by helping employees to balance individual needs with work requirements. These needs could relate to time for domestic tasks, family and social life, sleep and recreational activities. As older age, being a female, having children or many domestic obligations are associated with less tolerance to shift work, these individual characteristics may reflect different needs in relation to the scheduling of working hours. Still, a recent review did not find an increase in shift work problems with increasing age.

The authors investigated how employees prioritised when they scheduled their own shifts and whether priorities depended on age, gender, educational level, cohabitation and health status. They used cross-sectional questionnaire data from the follow-up survey of an intervention study investigating the effect of self-scheduling. Intervention group participants were asked about their priorities when scheduling their own shifts succeeded by 17 items covering family/private life, economy, job content, health and sleep.

At least half of the participants reported that they were giving high priority to their family life, having consecutive time off, leisure-time activities, rest between shifts, sleep, regularity of their everyday life, health and that the work schedule balanced.

They thus found that employees not only consider both their health and family but also the workplace’s needs when they schedule their own shifts.