Our 24/7 society
Work is being done continuously, regardless of what day or what time it is. It has always been like that and always will be. Already thousands of years ago, primitive people, whether hunters, gatherers or land cultivators had to work when the conditions were favourable. The industrial revolution initiated shift work which was tied to certain clock times. Our modern service society revolves around the continuous provision of services, and also some specialist work is independent of time or place.
One out of four Finns are engaged in shift work. Shift work and night work suit some people better than others. “Night owls” may enjoy working at night. For some other people, even a minor alteration from their normal daily rhythm is appalling. Also age is a factor, young people are more adaptable. Shift work and even permanent night work suit the life situation of some people, for instance if they combine studying and work.
Shift work and especially night work are very loading physically as well as mentally. If a person doesn’t get enough sleep, the level of alertness lowers, performance weakens, and the risk of injuries and accidents increases. Maintaining alertness during the night is a special challenge in work that involves continuous monitoring and vigilance.
Careful shift planning is important in shift work. The significance of recovering properly, sleeping, healthy nutrition, and regular exercise is especially important for people doing shift work. Alternating work tasks during the shift helps keep up alertness.
A different kind of hazard is present in specialist work, the blending of work and free time. Detaching work from an established time or place allows a person to carry out the work anywhere, for example at home or at the summer cottage. At their best, flexible working time arrangements support the balancing of work and free time. At their worst, they lead to an uncontrolled situation where work takes over the person’s life.
The managing of working time among information workers becomes an increasingly personal responsibility. A specialist must be able to manage him- or herself. You can’t leave your brains on your work desk, but you can use them for different purposes. Recovering from work can best be achieved by controlling the length of your working hours, and by cutting yourself off entirely from the work during your free time.