Workers Health & Safety Centre

New shift work resource highlights work/life imbalance

Woman pointing at a scale that has 'work' on on side and 'life' on the other
Juggling work, family and community commitments with a day job can be a challenge. Working shifts can make it all the more difficult.

A new resource, entitled A Hard Day’s Night: the effect of night shift work on work/life balance, spells out many of the work/life balance challenges faced by shift workers ranging from child care for single parents to family and marital strain.

What is shift work?

A standard work day can be defined as a shift scheduled between 7:00 am and 6:00 pm. Shift work involves work scheduled outside these “normal” hours. Here in Canada, one in four workers work shifts. Industries and occupations relying heavily on shift work include health care and social assistance, accommodation and food services, policing and security, manufacturing, warehousing and transportation.

What is work/life balance?

Work/life balance is a self-defined state of well-being that allows individuals to manage multiple roles at work, home and in the community. Based on a growing body of research and the experiences of working people, achieving this state of well-being is beyond the reach of many including shift workers. And the impacts on their lives are significant.
To date, much of the attention has been on the health impacts which can be significant ranging from cancer and cardiovascular disease to mental health issues and excess risk of workplace incidents resulting in injuries.
The authors of a Hard Day’s Night are seeking to expand awareness about the impact of shift work on work/life balance. They cite a number of studies showing greater levels of divorce among those working non-standard hours along with behaviour and emotional difficulties with children. They also report that shift work involving work at night is more detrimental to achieving work/life balance than rotating shifts (i.e. days to afternoon to nights). Here in Canada, this affects many as 20 per cent of those employed are engaged in shift work involving work at night.
The authors also recognize shift work is actually sought by some. For instance, couples with kids may seek out non-traditional shifts to assist with child-care.

Can work/life balance be achieved?

Many family, recreational and social activities are scheduled at night or on weekends—times that better serve the needs of those working a traditional nine to five workday. Shift workers face the daunting challenge of syncing their schedule to that of the majority.
Though no approach can work for everyone, there are solutions to alleviate or eliminate challenges faced by shift workers seeking work/life balance. This report highlights the fact workers seem to find better balance when they have influence over when they work and the design of shifts.
For our part, the WHSC offers Hours of Work training that addresses the issue of shift work including insight into the actions needed to eliminate or mitigate the health risks and work/life balance issues. We also offer a concise shift work fact sheet
Want to read A Hard Day’s Night: the effect of night shift work on work/life balance?
Want to know more about WHSC Hours of Work training or how we can help your workplace meet any of your training or information needs?
Call: 1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a training service representative.