Irregular Work Shifts, Work Schedule Flexibility and Associations with Work-Family Conflict and Work Stress in the U.S.
Sarah De Groof et al. "Work-Life Balance in the Modern Workplace. Interdisciplinary Perspectives from Work-Family Research, Law and Policy." (2017).
40 Pages Posted: 3 Aug 2017
Date Written: July 1, 2017
Many organizations are increasingly relying on less predictable and stable shifts with shorter advance notice scheduling, even on-call work. Meanwhile, the integration of work and nonwork life is increasingly dependent on employees’ ability to receive their preferred work schedule. Some employees have been gaining more autonomy over their hours or schedules, however, many others actually have less control. When an employee works on an irregular or on-call shift, what are the effects on work-family balance and work stress?
The incidence and effects of unstable work schedules are explored here using General Social Survey (GSS) data and its Quality of Worklfe (QWL) modules, and other one-time polls. Estimates are that from 10 percent to 16 percent of workers report working these kind of shifts. Empirical analyses with multi-nomial regression estimation finds that work-family conflict is worsened not only by longer weekly hours, but also by having irregular shift work. Controlling for hours worked per week, employees who work irregular shift times, in contrast with those with more standard, regular shift times, experience greater work-family conflict and in some cases, also greater work stress. The association between work-family conflict and irregular shift work is particularly strong for salaried workers, even when controlling for their relatively longer work hours. There is lower work-family conflict for those with part-time jobs, however, this is entirely attributable to their shorter working hours.
The analysis finds that the adverse effect of irregular and on-call shifts can be quite moderated or mitigated by workers having schedule flexibility – ability to alter their starting and ending times and especially, to take time off during work. An employee having flexibility moderates some of the adverse negative effect of irregular work schedules on work-family balance. There are key industry differences in the associations between employer-centered and employee-centered flexibility in work scheduling. Thus, employee-centered flexibility might help counter some of the negative consequences of on-call and irregular shift working.
The results suggest that preventative practices and policies that limit the extent and prevalence of work hours fluctuation would improve worker well. There is legislation recently adopted in states and municipalities across the United States, which mainly target the retail and food service industries, and consideration of a more general “right to request” schedule adjustments, modelled on the laws in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, and Germany, which create largely positive experiences for employees, without harm to employers.
Keywords: irregular and on-call shifts; flexible work schedules; right to request; work-family conflict; part-time work
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