Press release 13 June 2022
Night work is most prevalent (article in Finnish) in social welfare and health care services in Finland, and the amount of night work is growing in that sector. According to data on working hours in the social welfare and health care sector obtained from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s Work-Life Knowledge service , which was updated in June, shift workers aged 55–64 work fewer night shifts than those aged 25–34, for example. As a rule, ageing employees also had fewer instances of several consecutive night shifts. This finding is a relief as, according to the COADAPT research project that was completed in May, employees as young as 40 and above are more likely, for example, to use sleeping pills and have long sickness absences if their shift work involves night shifts.
- “As employees age, their ability to adapt to night work deteriorates, and physical issues that come with age may increase the need to recover after strenuous work shifts. Studies show that reducing night shifts and avoiding long hours are the most effective ways to mitigate the health risks associated with shift work,” says Research Professor Mikko Härmä from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health.
Updated working time traffic light model includes recommendations for employees over 50 years of age
The Finnish Institute of Occupational Health’s working time traffic light model provides research-based recommendations and limit values for assessing the stressfulness of working times. The social welfare and health care sector, in particular, aims to operate in accordance with the model as a rule.
Based on the most recent research results, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health updated the recommendations of the working time traffic light model concerning night work and shift length in June. New recommendations were also issued with regard to employees over 50 years of age:
- the opportunity to work fewer night shifts
- where necessary, the opportunity to work reduced total hours and shorter shifts
- avoiding short intervals between shifts to ensure adequate recovery
Reducing the stressfulness of work for ageing employees is significant from the perspective of society, as it is likely to reduce sickness absences and extend careers.
Participatory working time scheduling improves work ability
Participatory working time scheduling gives employees more influence over the planning of their shifts. The COADAPT project, which was part of the EU Horizon research programme and was completed in June, found that participatory working time scheduling reduced sickness absences, work-related stress and sleep disorders amongst social welfare and health care workers at the department level, and it also improved their self-perceived work ability. The effects were similar for both young and older employees.
- “Ageing employees have an increased need to adjust their working times due to their health, however. In the over-55 age group, we compared those who used participatory working time scheduling with those whose shifts were planned by supervisors alone. Among those who used participatory shift planning, the risk of reduced work ability was lower by 42 per cent,” notes Professor Mikko Härmä.
Updated working time traffic light recommendations related to assessing the stressfulness of working times
- Link: Assessing the stressfulness of working times | Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (ttl.fi)
Updated data on working time in the social welfare and health care sector in the Work-Life Knowledge service
- The working time in the social welfare and health care sector data indicates the length of working time, night work, recovery, days off and changes related to opportunities to influence working times in the social welfare and health care sector according to calendar year, the employer’s sector, working time model, gender and age.
- The data is based on research co-operation through which the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health has a database of the daily working times of over 220,000 people starting from the year 2008.
- The data includes all hospital districts with university hospitals and major cities in the public sector.
- Link to the data page: Up-to-date data on the Work-Life Knowledge service
- Link to the analysis page: Up-to-date analysis on the Work-Life Knowledge service
- COADAPT: Adaptive environments and conversational agent based approaches for healthy ageing and work ability | Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (ttl.fi)
Social welfare and health care working times project
Effects of ergonomic shift planning and the COVID-19 pandemic on working hours and health in the social welfare and health care sector (social welfare and health care working times) | Finnish Institute of Occupational Health (ttl.fi)
For more information, please contact:
Research Professor Mikko Härmä, mikko.harma [at] ttl.fi (mikko[dot]harma[at]ttl[dot]fi), tel. +358 40 544 2750