Painful Hours? The Potential Costs of Extra Work Hours and Schedule Inflexibility to Workers’ Physical Well-Being
OCCUPATIONAL HEALTH AND SAFETY: PSYCHOLOGICAL AND BEHAVIORAL CHALLENGES, Chapter 6, pp. 137-160, Ronald Burke, Sharon Clarke, Cary Cooper, eds., Gower Publishing, 2011
37 Pages Posted: 8 May 2010 Last revised: 21 Sep 2011
Date Written: March 1, 2010
One of the costs organizations may incur is those associated with controlling employees’ work hours and schedules. This chapter examines the empirical association between long work hours, ability to control their work timing and their self reported experience of adverse physical health. One such inflexibility is the inability of a worker to refuse extra work hours, so that it is more mandatory than strictly voluntary. The other is the inability to change starting and quitting times of work on a daily basis. In the 2002 General Social Survey Quality of Work module, a total of 28 percent of the employed face the working condition of mandatory extra work hours, about half say they are not able to set their own starting and ending time of work at least some of the time and 15 percent have both inflexible daily work schedules and mandatory overtime work. The analysis focuses on three direct indicators of physical pain and also indirect contributors, work stress and daily fatigue. Cross tabulations find that adverse effects of long and extra work hours are exacerbated when the overtime work is mandatory in nature and also if schedules are inflexible. Multinomial logistic regression analysis investigates the extent to which inflexibility is associated with more frequent back, arm and wrist or neck pain, risk of getting hurt at work, work stress or daily fatigue. It attempts to disentangle the detrimental effects of long work hours per se from the working condition that extra hours are required or schedules are flexible for employees. Extra work hours generally are associated with cumulative injury and chronic pain more than suffering an acute type of injury at work, and also with elevated work stress and daily fatigue. When overtime is perceived as mandatory it further raises the incidence of back and arm pain. In contrast, having inflexible start and end times is associated with suffering an acute injury at work. When regressions control for a wide range of demographic and job factors, including the heavy lifting and hand movements required at the job, back pain is more prevalent when overtime is mandatory than when voluntary, but arm and wrist pain is associated with long work hours per se. Back pain and arm pain are also associated with perceived safety of the workplace when overtime work is not strictly voluntary. Thus, for cumulative types of pain, the mandatory nature of overtime is often at least as important as the overtime itself. Investing in greater choice to refuse extra hours may be quite low cost and the return in terms of improved worker physical health and safety at the workplace may be high.
Keywords: work hours, working time, overtime, occupational health, well being
JEL Classification: J22, J23, J28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation