Work involving long hours or abnormal night-day schedules has been in existence for centuries. There is evidence to suggest that such schedules are here to stay, for one reason or another, for one in five workers. The main physiological consequence of such shift schedules is disruption of circadian rhythm which can have a deleterious effect on performance, sleep patterns, accident rates, mental health, and cardiovascular mortality. Reproductive outcome effects may be linked to disruption of menstrual cycles. Individual issues such as sex, age, and personality are also important.
Coping with these potentially harmful work schedules involves helping people to cope and by designing workplace environments and shift scheduling schemes that lead to the least disruption to mental, physical, and social wellbeing.
Health effects of shift work and extended hours of work
Image credits: Jill Colbourne