Summary of the recommendations

1. Working hours in the Nordic countries

Given the wide occurrence and far-reaching negative effects of shift work and long  working hours, regulation of non-standard work schedules is needed. The EU Working  Time Directive forces national legislation in the European Union. The involvement of  effective employee organizations, as well as the active engagement and commitment of employers, and agreements with high flexibility and interaction between the actors are necessary to modify central regulation.

  • Comprehensive health and family policies are needed to support well-being when working hours are challenging. They should include access to OHS and flexible access to childcare facilities, which offer possibilities to reduce tensions  between work and family life.
  • Sustainable working times over the life course are needed to support appropriate working hours in different phases of life, as well as skill-upgrading and occupational mobility.
  • See the Poster 1.

2. Length of weekly working hours

  • Limiting weekly working hours to a maximum of 48 hours, as set by the EU Working Time Directive, remains well justified.
  • Interventions on reduced working hours (e.g. 6-hr workday) on retained salary have shown beneficial effects on subjective health and well-being in Finland and Sweden. From the economical aspect a cost-benefit analysis is recommended.
  • See the Poster 2.

3. Shift work, health and well-being

At the organizational level, reducing the number of consecutive night shifts and quick returns is recommended:

  • The number of consecutive night shifts should be low, preferably a maximum of three.
  • Quick returns (inter-shift interval of 11 hours or less) should be avoided, as ruled by the EU Working Time Directive.
  • The use of quickly rotating shift systems (e.g. 2–3 consecutive night shifts) is recommended instead of the use of more slowly rotating schedules (4 or more consecutive night shifts). This recommendation does not, however, include some specific work settings such as oilrig platforms.
  • See the Poster 3.

4. Flexible working hours and work-time control

  • Working hour flexibility and work demands should have limits that reflect individual capacity and the need to maintain boundaries between work and leisure time.
  • Workplaces and OHS should prioritize early identification of workers at risk of self-imposed excessive working hours.
  • Guidelines on flexible working practices should be tailored according to age, gender, work ability, and type of work.
  • Increase of work-time control is a potential and feasible way to improve health, well-being and work participation.
  • Interventions should target workers with especially low levels of control to guarantee the availability of a minimum level of autonomy.
  • See the Poster 4.

5. Fatigue management in safety-critical industries

Authorities should provide 24/7 safety-critical industries with guidelines on effective  fatigue mitigation strategies and FRMS and their implementation.

Safety-critical organizations should use an FRMS that

  • Includes a documented plan on how to manage fatigue in an effective and feasible way with the resources available. The plan should a) evaluate the current situation, b) determine the policy, practices and responsibilities, c) select mitigation measures and set goals for them, and d) determine how to monitor developments.
  • Uses fatigue measures with generally established critical values and if possible, studies the association of these measures with near-misses and incidents.
  • Complements fatigue mitigation measures with fatigue-proofing strategies to support safe performance when managing the risks associated with fatigue.
  • See the Poster 5.

It is also important that these organizations share their best practices and benchmark themselves against relevant fellow organizations.

6. Light and cognitive behavioural therapies in the treatment of shift work disorder

  • OHS should recognize and assess SWD and comorbid sleep disorders among shift workers.
  • Treatment options using both ergonomic shift scheduling, sleep hygiene and/or cognitive behavioural therapies are recommended in the treatment of SWD.
  • Scheduled bright light treatment is recommended for permanent night workers who struggle with poor adaptation to their work schedule.
  • In rotating shift work, the appropriateness of bright light therapies will likely depend on the number of consecutive night shifts. Phase shifting is not recommended in fast-rotating shift work.
  • If a shift worker has insomnia independent of working hours, the standard treatment guidelines for chronic insomnia should be followed, that is, CBT-I.
  • See the Poster 6.

The Recommendations can be implemented in each country according to the national policies.
For example in Finland, FIOH has updated the Traffic light model for period-based work according to the applicable recommendations.

See Traffic light model (in Finnish).