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. 2016 May;57:12-27.
doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2016.01.007. Epub 2016 Feb 3.

Characteristics of Shift Work and Their Impact on Employee Performance and Wellbeing: A Literature Review


Characteristics of Shift Work and Their Impact on Employee Performance and Wellbeing: A Literature Review

Chiara Dall'Ora et al. Int J Nurs Stud. .


Objectives: To identify the characteristics of shift work that have an effect on employee's performance (including job performance, productivity, safety, quality of care delivered, errors, adverse events and client satisfaction) and wellbeing (including burnout, job satisfaction, absenteeism, intention to leave the job) in all sectors including healthcare.

Design: A scoping review of the literature was undertaken.

Data sources: We searched electronic databases (CINAHL, MEDLINE, PsychINFO, SCOPUS) to identify primary quantitative studies.

Review methods: The search was conducted between January and March 2015. Studies were drawn from all occupational sectors (i.e. health and non health), meeting the inclusion criteria: involved participants aged ≥18 who have been working shifts or serve as control group for others working shifts, exploring the association of characteristics of shift work with at least one of the selected outcomes. Reference lists from retrieved studies were checked to identify any further studies.

Results: 35 studies were included in the review; 25 studies were performed in the health sector. A variety of shift work characteristics are associated with compromised employee's performance and wellbeing. Findings from large multicentre studies highlight that shifts of 12h or longer are associated with jeopardised outcomes. Working more than 40h per week is associated with adverse events, while no conclusive evidence was found regarding working a 'Compressed Working Week'; working overtime was associated with decreased job performance. Working rotating shifts was associated with worse job performance outcomes, whilst fixed night shifts appeared to enable resynchronisation. However, job satisfaction of employees working fixed nights was reduced. Timely breaks had a positive impact on employee fatigue and alertness, whilst quick returns between shifts appeared to increase pathologic fatigue. The effect of shift work characteristics on outcomes in the studies reviewed is consistent across occupational sectors.

Conclusions: This review highlighted the complexity that encompasses shift work, but many studies do not account for this complexity. While some consistent associations emerge (e.g. 12h shifts and jeopardised outcomes), it is not always possible to conclude that results are not confounded by unmeasured factors.

Keywords: Absenteeism; Burnout, Professional; Job performance; Job satisfaction; Patient safety; Personnel turnover; Quality of health care; Shift length; Shift work.

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