Healthy working hours

Regular day work is the healthiest for people. The adverse impacts of shift work can be minimised, for instance, through good work shift planning. Check out our tips.

Regular day work is the healthiest for people. When it is not always an option, the goal has to be the healthiest working hours possible.

Regular day work is the healthiest for people. More and more often, work is carried out around the clock. People’s ability to adapt to irregularity varies. The ability to adjust is individual but also dependent on age. Shift work is least suitable for morning people. As we get older, our ability to adapt to night shifts in particular declines.

The negative impacts of shift work can be minimised, for instance, through good work schedule planning and by taking personal needs into account.

In working hour issues, you can contact your occupational safety ombudsman or shop steward for help.

Hazards resulting from working hours must be resolved

The Occupational Safety and Health Act requires employers to also identify hazards resulting from working hours. Occupational accidents, work-related injuries and illnesses increase when weekly working hours exceed 40 hours and breaks in work are not arranged appropriately.

The employer must take into account the following factors when assessing hazards:

  • length of workdays
  • employee’s possibility to adjust the length of workdays
  • total working time
  • repetitiveness of back-to-back work shifts
  • rotation direction of work shifts
  • overtime and its volume
  • time when work performed
  • predictability of work times
  • total load resulting from commitment to the work
  • employees’ opportunity for sufficient recovery during the workday and between them

When planning shift work schedules it is important that

  • the rhythm is regular
  • the system is fast and rotates forward
  • shifts are 8–10 hours long
  • there are 10–12 hours between shifts
  • there are unbroken periods of free time, on weekends

Shift work recommendations

  • back-to-back night shifts as few as possible (no more than three)
  • back-to-back morning shifts as few as possible (no more than three)
  • back-to-back evening shifts as few as possible (no more than three)
  • rotation direction of work shifts forward (M – E – N –). Backwards rotation should be avoided.
  • after the final night shift of the period at least two days off. Periods N – M should be avoided.
  • single days off should be avoided
  • single workdays should be avoided
  • no more than 5–7 back-to-back workdays
  • there should be sufficient time to rest between work shifts (more than 11 hours)

Long work shifts should only be considered if

  • it suits the nature and workload of the work
  • there are sufficient breaks
  • absences are well planned, sufficient free time between shifts
  • absences are taken care of with a sufficient number of reserve workers
  • employees are not being made to work overtime
  • exposure to substances harmful to health is limited
  • it is possible to recover completely from work

When reducing the harmful impacts of shift work the following should be considered:

  • each person has the opportunity to participate in the planning of work and work shifts
  • an ergonomic shift system is followed
  • working conditions have been put into good shape
  • training of supervisors and employees
  • impact of commutes (long trip, possibility to use public transport)
  • occupational health care services support employees
  • taking care of own habits and resources
  • how do I maintain my energy level and capability?
  • sufficient and high-quality sleep
  • family life and social support