Study finds married people don't mind shift work
By ROY WOOD
Scripps Howard News Service
April 27, 2004

Research by a psychology graduate student suggests that workers who are married are generally happier on the job than single workers, even if they're working late-night hours.

The results rebut the common belief that, because of the demands of family life, single employees have more job and life satisfaction while working late or early shifts.

The report also contradicted what researchers expected to find, said Mark Nagy, director of the graduate program in industrial/organizational psychology at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

"Our hypothesis was the exact opposite," he said.

The disadvantages of shift work for married people seemed obvious: less family time, disrupted meal schedules and interference with leisure activities.

For her thesis research, Sarah Ipsa spent 15 months surveying 207 shift employees who worked between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. in a bank, manufacturing company or hospital.

"There is a belief that a married person may be better for a day-shift and a single person is better for a night shift," Nagy said.

The study showed that married workers were more satisfied with their work and lives than single workers. It also found that married workers with children had about the same levels of life and job satisfaction as married workers without children.

"Organizations should at least consider married people with or without children for shift work equally with single people," Nagy said.

Nagy and Ipsa, who graduated in December, presented their findings earlier this month at the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology annual conference in Chicago, where more than 3,000 workplace scientists and practitioners presented research on emerging trends, debates and the way people function in the workplace.

Nagy said he and Ipsa have speculated about why the results turned out as they did.

Working alternative shifts makes it possible for one parent to always be home with children, Nagy said. It also makes it easier for couples to take care of business during the day.

On the other hand, for singles, it appears working shifts may interfere with dating or other leisure activities.

If someone wants to go golfing with friends in the middle of the afternoon, for example, those friends may be working, Nagy said.

Social support does not seem as disrupted by shift work for marrieds as for singles, he said.

Nagy and Ipsa are trying to get the study published in workplace journals.