Effects of shift work in the Norwegian petroleum industry on family and social life

The effects of working shifts on 1,697 workers in the Norwegian petroleum industry on social and domestic/family life were investigated based on responses to a questionnaire on work–life balance. Although some problems were reported, especially for the group working ‘one day period and one night period offshore’, most participants reported few problems, suggesting that the availability of more leisure time may be a positive feature of shift work in the industry.

Operations in the petroleum industry require continuous shift schedules. Although some health effects are known to result from shift work, less is known about its effect on the social and family life of the workers.

A recent study (Ljoså et al, 2009) examined the extent to which different shift arrangements in the petroleum industry interfered with family and social life. Also studied were the influence of coping strategies, and the internal locus of control on the interference of shift work in family and social life.

About the survey

All 3,038 employees of a large Norwegian oil and gas company who worked onshore and offshore during a two-week period in August 2006 were invited to participate in the study. A questionnaire containing scales from the standard shift work index (Barton et al, 1995) and shift work locus of control (Smith et al, 1995) was sent electronically. The questionnaire was filled in by 1,697 employees (1,398 men and 299 women), giving a response rate of 56%.

Differences between various shift schedules on questions concerned with family and social life were identified by conducting general linear model (GLM) univariate analyses of variance and post-hoc Bonferroni tests (adjusted to allow for gender, age and marital status).

Multiple regression analyses were also carried out to determine whether:

  • the shift work locus of control and coping strategies had any effect on family and social life;
  • interactions between location (onshore vs. offshore) and individual differences (shift work locus of control and coping strategies) were able to predict social and domestic outcomes.

Key findings

  • When working shifts, the internal locus of control with respect to a person’s social situation was associated negatively with problems in social and domestic/family life, and positively with having enough time for partner, family, friends, children and oneself (see table).
  • Use of problem-solving as a coping strategy was associated with problems with domestic/family life.
  • Social support as a coping strategy was associated with having enough time to be with friends and to maintain adequate social relations.
  • Wishful thinking as a coping strategy was associated with problems in social and domestic/family life.
  • High scores on self-criticism were associated with all the dependent variables. Self-criticism as a coping strategy was associated with more problems in the worker’s social and domestic/family life and with having less time for partner, family, friends, children and oneself.
  • No significant interactions between onshore/offshore location and individual differences such as shift work locus of control and individual coping strategies in predicting the outcome variables were found.
  • The hypothesis that shiftwork locus of control would be associated with engaging problem-focused coping strategies such as seeking social support and problem-solving coping was not supported. However, locus of control was negatively associated with both types of emotion-focused disengaging coping strategies (wishful thinking and self-criticism).
Multiple regression analyses for problems with social/domestic life and the experience of ‘having enough time’
Predictors Dependent variables
Shiftwork gives problems with: Enough time with:
social life domestic/ family life partner close family friends and social relations your children yourself
Locus of control social life -0.39** -0.36** 0.25** 0.29** 0.25** 0.23** 0.19**
Problem solving as coping 0.04 0.10* -0.09 -0.08 -0.05 -0.06 -0.08
Social support as coping -0.02 -0.02 0.07 0.06 0.08* 0.07 0.05
Cognitive restructuring 0.02 -0.03 0.02 -0.01 -0.02 0.03 0.04
Wishful thinking as coping 0.10* 0.12** -0.03 0.02 -0.05 -0.04 -0.04
Self-criticism as coping 0.29** 0.16** -0.10* -0.13** -0.12** -0.12** -0.16**

Notes: * p < 0.01. ** p < 0.001.

All predictors were entered simultaneously and were adjusted for gender, age, marital status and shift schedule. Beta values are reported.

Commentary

Although some problems were reported, especially for the group working ‘one day period and one night period offshore’, most participants reported few problems. The availability of more leisure time thus seems to be a positive feature of shift work in the Norwegian petroleum industry. Locus of control and the use of coping strategies were also seen to be important for the social and domestic/family life of shift workers.

References

Barton, J., Spelten, E., Totterdell, P., Smith, L., Folkard, S. and Costa, G. ‘The standard shiftwork index: a battery of questionnaires for assessing shiftwork-related problems, Work and Stress, Vol. 4, 1995, pp. 4–30.

Ljoså, C.H. and Lau, B., Shift work in the Norwegian petroleum industry: overcoming difficulties with family and social life: a cross sectional study, Journal of Occupational Medicine and Toxicology, Vol. 4, 2009, p. 22.

Smith, L., Spelten, E. and Norman, P., ‘Shiftwork locus of control: scale development’, Work and Stress, Vol. 9, 1995, pp. 219–226.

Bjørn Tore Langeland, National Institute of Occupational Health, Department of Occupational Health Surveillance

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