The schedulilng of hours of work is undoubtedly one of the major social problems of industrial society. Statistic estimates that 30% of Canada’s workforce are involved in some kinds of shiftwork. Of those, 33% work irregular shifts, just under 30% work rotating shifts, 17% work long term evening shifts, 10% work on call, 3% work split shifts, 3% work long term night shifts and just over 3% are classed as “other”. Present estimates tell us that before the trend slows, fully 35% of the workforce will work some type of shiftwork (Siroonian 123). Companies are feeling the need to maximize their efficiency by spreading their operating costs over 24 hours. However, on the other hand, working other than the standard dayshift can cause many problems for the worker. It can affect the worker’s health and safety and the relationships with one’s family and the community (Carpentier 14). In this essay, I will analysis the impact of shiftwork on humans and make some suggestions of how to alleviate some negative aspect of it.
On one hand, shiftwork enhances economy advantages (Maurice 13). Adaption of shiftwork may result in a reduction in unemployment, or may provide work for those potentially unemployed (Perlow 46). In some cases, the choice may be between shift work and no work at all. In addition, shiftwork can enable full use of capital goods. James Walker suggests that from the point of view of the economy as a whole, the introduction of shift work, by reducing the stock of capital required to produce a given output, can encourage the entry of new firms into an industry and thus makes the economy more competitive (Walker 81).
However, despite the economy advantages, we must take human costs into account too. Shiftwork has side effect on worker in the physicalogical aspect. The most common short-term ailment is a stomach or gastro-intestinal problem. One study found shiftworkers had twice as high a rate of ulcers as day workers did. Others have linked shiftwork with problems like heartburn, loss of appetite, diarrhea and constipation (Aanonsen 57). Few shiftworkers escape their years on rotation without experiencing at least one of those symptoms. It is because that they are not eating at traditional meal times, and eat junk food or other snacks that are quick and convenient (Aanonsen 58). Caffeine, the shiftworker’s constant companion, and changing meal times from one day to the next may affect gastric secretions, aggravating digestive problems. Sleep disorders, caused by the disruption of circadian rhythm, are a common long-term health effect experienced by shiftworkers. Fatigue can also make a person more vulnerable to illness, poor job performance and sagging motivation (Tasto 26). Because of difficulties getting to sleep or staying awake, shiftworkers may be more likely to suffer from substance abuse. Some may use alcohol or sleeping pills as a tool to help them relax and get to sleep at the end of the shift. Others may find themselves using tobacco or drugs to keep themselves awake and functioning through the day. All these substances can be addictive, and can lead to other health problems such as heart attack, diabetes and elilepsy (Morgan 75). Many of these health effects, both long term and short term, are interconnected. When some or all of them are piled on the shiftworker’s shoulders, it may also lead to depression or even nervous breakdown.
Shiftwork also has effects on worker’s family and social life. Plagued by constant exhaustion and obsessed with getting enough sleep, shiftworker can suffer from high levels of irritability, mood swings and stress. All of these can create complications in family relationships (Simon 343). James Walker suggests that it is common place to talk of “shiftworking as abnormal, night work as unnatural, shift workers as being ioslated” (walker 81). Due to shift work, family rountine may never be able to fully set, and shiftworkers may have difficulties playing the role of caregiver, social companion, sexual partners and parents. Shiftworkers have to either conform to his family’s rountine, interupting his sleep to have lunch with their families, or follow a rountine of their own. If they do neither, they are forced to live to some extent independently of their families (Simon 344). Less interaction and less communication are bound to put a strain on a relationship. Moreover, Community relationships are affected, because their schedules are different from those who are working in normal daytime hours. It may be hard for a shiftworker to spend time with friends, attend events in the community or participate in social or group recreational activities, which can reinforce the worker’s feelings of isolation and depression (Maurice 53).
Although no absoulate means can solve the problems of shiftwork, there are suggestions that can make the situations better. Shift workers can improve their diet and eating pattern. They should maintain eating pattern as regular as possible, because it can keep energy levels up, improve sleep and help the body to adjust to the shifwork schedule. They should also have a proper diet of high fibre and low fat. Also, intake of caffeine, alcohol and salt, and use of sleeping pills should be limited (Nigel 29). In addition, sleep maintence is also very important. Shiftworkers should try to sleep on a set schedule to make sleep during the day easier, and let their friends and families the importance of their daytime sleep. One strategy is to turn off any nearby phones and use a beeper that only family members know the number for and can contact you if there is an emergency. Moreover, exercise is important too. Being physically fit helps the body maintain good health, strengthens muscles and organs such as the heart, and makes the whole system better able to cope with the demands of shiftwork. Communications and good family relationships are more difficult for shiftworkers and workers away from home for periods of time, but they are possible. Planning takes more effort when you’re a shiftworker. Figuring out how you’re going to spend time with your spouse or special somebody might even mean hiring someone to help with the house, mowing the lawn or driving the kids. Social activities are still possible and they are very important to your peace within (Nigel 33).
Knowledge is power. Suplied with a little knowledge about how shiftwork affects the body, shiftworkers and their employers have the power to make changes which will improve communication and also improve health and well being of each and every worker.
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