More threads by David Baxter PhD

David Baxter PhD

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Overnight Shifts Not Always Bad For Married Folks
April 2, 2004

Married Shift Workers Report Higher Job Satisfaction Than Single Co-Workers

Maybe working shifts isn't as tough on marriages as many believe.

A study conducted by Xavier University researchers found that married workers, including those with children, who work shifts had higher levels of life and job satisfaction than their unmarried co-workers.

"It's somewhat surprising because it is widely believed that shift work has a negative effect on marriages, but that is not true in all cases. Some workers adapt quite well to shift work," said Dr. Mark Nagy, an assistant professor of psychology at Xavier University in Cincinnati.

The survey, which includes data from 200 second- and third-shift workers in several organizations, including a manufacturing company and a hospital, will be presented this weekend at a conference of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology in Chicago.

According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 14.5 million full-time wage and salary employees work on shifts -- that is, their workday encompasses hours outside the times of 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

While all shift workers face sleep challenges, the disadvantages of shift work for the married worker seem obvious. They generally spend less time with their spouse and children.

"Our hypothesis was married workers, both with and without children, would be more adversely affected by shift work than single workers with no children. But that turned out to be wrong," said Sarah Ipsa, a human resources specialist with OKI Systems, Ltd., a materials handling firm based in Cincinnati.

Nagy said more than half of shift workers do so because it is "the nature of the job." But a significant number of people prefer working shifts for several reasons, including higher pay and better arrangements for family or child care.

"Having a family member caring for the children is a huge relief for many working parents. And when they figure the amount of money spent on day care, working alternative shifts begins to make sense," Ipsa said.

Researchers said a likely reason why single shift workers reported a lower quality of life and job satisfaction is that their work time interferes with their leisure time -- which may lead to difficulties in dating.

"I think there is a bias towards hiring single people for shift work; the perception being that shift work would be more suitable for them because they have fewer family commitments," Nagy said. "So perhaps it is a result that employers should look at ad consider the adaptability of married workers."
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