Often novels and cinema have chosen to tell us stories about characters who worked the night shift. One of the most disturbing is undoubtedly Nightwatch (1997): a student pays his or her way through school by working as a night watchman in a morgue, amid reliving deaths and recurring hallucinations. Another example, certainly more illustrious: Liliana Cavani’s Nightwatchman, a cult film from the 1970s.
It is a fact that shifts in the evening or night are increasing. On the other hand, some activities can be exercised only during these hours: the workers of the show must necessarily be on duty in the evening or at night, with repercussions on the organization of their own lives and those of their families. Other jobs are structured into three shifts, not only in the medical or law enforcement field, but also in many factories or warehouses, hotels and an increasing number of jobs
Flexibility in working time
As early as the nineties of the last century, forms of flexibility in working hours, determined by changes in the organization of work, technology and family needs, have become widespread.
A 2007 study by the ILO (International Labour Organization, the UN agency specializing in this subject) showed that shift work is particularly present in the wholesale and retail trade, the hotel and restaurant industry, transport and communications. In the industrialized world about a third of the employees have more shifts and a fifth of them also the night shift.
Working Sundays also have a significant impact in certain sectors: a study by the Cgia di Mestre in 2018, relating to 2016, showed that about 4.7 million Italians work on Sundays, particularly in the catering, commerce, public administration, health and transport sectors.
The rules in Italy
In Italy there is a precise legislation that dictates the rules in the field of shift work in general and night work in particular, to safeguard the mental and physical health of workers. The starting point of the legislation, in addition to art. 36 of the Constitution and art. 2107 of the Civil Code, is the Legislative Decree 66/2003, which complies with EU directives 93/104/EC and 2000/34/EC and provides only specific exceptions. Some aspects provided by the Law: hours on a weekly basis not exceeding 40 hours (48 including overtime), of which no more than 13 per working day. The sector’s national collective bargaining agreements may then establish specific conditions.
With regard to night work, i.e. that which provides for at least 7 hours of work between midnight and five in the morning, it may not exceed 8 hours. Some categories are excluded from the night shift in any case, such as workers or women with special family responsibilities. The arrangements for rest are also precisely defined.
Shift organization is a significant burden for the employer, both when it is done manually, for example for small businesses, and when relying on shift software. It is not easy to find a really effective shift schedule and in some cases it is necessary to make changes by hand. In addition, shift assignments should be done with a good margin of notice, so that the worker has the opportunity to organize themselves at a personal and family level.
Physiological problems of work shifts
Many studies warn against the physiological effects of shift work, obviously more significant for evening or night work. We speak in particular of “shift worker syndrome”, with the scientific term Shift Work Sleep Disorder (SWSD). The most evident effect concerns circadian rhythms, i.e. the impairment of normal sleep-wake rhythms, with negative effects on the nervous system, hormonal secretions and so on. A study published in 2018 in the scientific journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of USA) also highlighted risks to the metabolic system, which could lead to obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
Who likes shifts
On the other hand, the uncomfortable shifts, such as night shifts or holidays, give the right to a higher salary, so they can be attractive to many, and in some cases appreciated for themselves.
Who has chosen to be an actor, or a musician, in general to work in the show, has realized that his activity will lead him to adopt an irregular rhythm of life. But there are also those who simply choose to work in the evening or at night to devote the day to the studio or family.
And there are still those who prefer unusual hours, because they do not like to work “from 9 to 5” (“Nine to five”, another 1980 film). In many blogs we find examples of people like this: there are those who prefer night work because they find it quieter, less noise, few phones, slower rhythms. And they also appreciate the advantages in payroll, because, as we said, the night shift is paid more. There are those who say they can work better because there are fewer interruptions, those who want to avoid discussions with those who are scampering to stay in the day shifts or feel they can be more autonomous and less controlled.
Everyone sees it in his own way: but of course a shift life is not easy. Nor is it easy to organize them without the help of effective software.
HR-Assistant shift software can be the right tool. To learn more, click here