Irregular Work Schedules Can Lead To Health Problems

A CNN article by Kristen Rogers discusses the long-term health implications of irregular work schedules, specifically drawing attention to their association with adverse health outcomes later in life. Conducting a study utilizing a life-course approach, researchers found that deviations from stable daytime work hours were linked to various health issues, including lower sleep quality, diminished physical and mental functions, and an increased likelihood of reporting poor health and depressive symptoms at age 50. Such effects were particularly pronounced among individuals with volatile work patterns, highlighting the significant impact of irregular schedules on overall well-being.

The study also revealed notable disparities based on race, gender, and education, with certain demographic groups experiencing higher rates of adverse health outcomes associated with nonstandard work schedules. Women, for instance, reported lower-quality sleep despite getting more hours of sleep, while Black Americans were more likely to have work schedules linked with poorer health. These findings underscore the intersectionality between employment patterns and social position, highlighting substantial health disparities among different segments of the population.

While the study emphasizes the need for further research to establish causality, experts suggest potential explanations for the observed associations. Nonstandard work schedules can disrupt crucial lifestyle habits, such as sleep, diet, and social interactions, which are essential for maintaining good health. Financial instability and the lack of a stable social environment inherent in some nonstandard work arrangements can also contribute to stress and anxiety. Despite these challenges, individuals can adopt strategies like maintaining a healthy lifestyle, optimizing sleep conditions, and seeking routine health checkups to mitigate the negative effects of irregular work schedules on their health and well-being.

As a younger, professional, I’ve experienced the challenges of developing a consistent work schedule and healthy work-live balance.  During college I worked multiple jobs along with my studies, sleeping sporadically and inconsistently.  While my work schedule was more predictable once I graduated, I still struggled to create a consistent sleep pattern.   

TRACOM’s Adaptive Mindset for Resilience training program taught me skills to overcome workplace stressors. It identified my Negativity Bias and suggested strategies to overcome it.  Now instead of feeling stuck and paralyzed when I face stress I have ways to address it.  This makes me more engaged and productive at work and in life.  I prioritize the things most important to me.  That might just be going to the gym or enjoying time with my dog or friends. Now I focus on balancing the unpredictability of life with the things I can control.  I still don’t have a perfect sleep routine, but I’m getting better and that may help me head off the long-term risk detailed in the study.