Occupational Health

by Anna Harrington

Shift work

The effects of both long working hours and shift work are a consequence of disruption to circadian rhythms and sleep deprivation, giving rise to

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety, depression, neuroticism
  • Possible cardiovascular disorders and cardiac effects
  • Gastrointestinal disorders/dysfunction
  • Pregnancy problems, such as spontaneous abortion, low birth weight and prematurity.

There are also links to breast cancer.

In addition, the very nature of shift work and long working hours affects family and social life, which could contribute to a poor sense of wellbeing. For these reasons, the Working Time Directive requires employers to offer night workers a ‘night worker health assessment’.

Effects of part-time working and remote working

Flexible working patterns offer benefits to both employers and employees. Employers might experience increased productivity and employment, whereas workers may experience greater control and flexibility and, in some cases, reduced stress.

The health implications of the increased adoption of flexible work and employment patterns are wide ranging:

  • Part-time and temporary workers may not always receive equal training opportunities or health and safety protection, compared to full-time, permanent employees
  • Precarious forms of employment may generate feelings of job insecurity and stress, as a result of isolation or conflicting demands arising from the blurred distinction between work and home life; the higher levels of job insecurity typically experienced by temporary workers can result in impaired well-being, and less desirable attitudes and behaviours towards work
  • Temporary workers are likely to be at increased risk of injury, as the risk of workplace injury is higher during the first four months within a new job
  • Although part-time workers spend less time at work, their injury rate per hour worked is higher than those working full-time.