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‘‘A hard day’s night?’’ Enhancing the work-life balance of shift workers

Introducing a Compressed Working Week may enhance the work-life balance of shift workers without damaging productivity or competitiveness suggests a new systematic review published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

One in five European workers are involved in some form of shift work. Health problems associated with shift work include sleep disturbances, fatigue, digestive problems, and stress-related illnesses, as well as increases in sickness absence.

The Compressed Working Week is an alternative work schedule in which the hours worked per day are increased, whilst the days worked are decreased in order to work the standard number of weekly hours in less than five days Typically three to four 12hr days are worked instead of five 8hr days.

This systematic review was conducted by researchers from the Department of Geography (Durham University), the MRC Public and Social Health Sciences Unit (University of Glasgow), the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (University of York), and the Department of Public Health (University of Liverpool) as part of the work of the Public Health Research Consortium.

The review combines 40 previous studies and represents the only comprehensive and robust review to date on the effects on the health and work-life balance of shift workers of Compressed Working Week interventions.

The existing evidence, albeit somewhat methodologically limited, suggests that introducing a Compressed Working Week may enhance work-life balance for shift workers. It does not appear to be detrimental to self-reported health in the short term.

Importantly, the studies conducted so far suggest that Compressed Working Week interventions tend to have a low risk of adverse health or organisational effects and so work-life balance and wellbeing may be improved through the workplace without necessarily damaging productivity or competitiveness.

The Compressed Working Week could, therefore, be an important tool for both policymakers and employers in terms of promoting healthier work places and improving working practices.

Further information can be obtained from Paul Wilson,
Tel: 01904 321073; email:

Paul Wilson | alfa
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