Home>Health & Wellbeing>General Health & Wellbeing>Shift workers experiencing burnout, research shows

Shift workers experiencing burnout, research shows

08 June 2023

SURFBOARD AND Breakroom have collected data from 1,142 shift workers in the UK across different industries to understand if working conditions for shift workers have improved or worsened in the last year.

With an increased focus on flexible working legislation and the 4-day-work-week movement in the UK at the moment, we’ve tailored this year’s survey to highlight the impact this has had on shift workers and the availability of flexible working options for employees in 2023. 

Surfboard is on a mission to make work more human through simpler, smarter and fairer scheduling and Breakroom is the people-powered job platform with the belief that everyone deserves a good job. Both companies have extensive experience understanding the needs of shift workers and the importance of flexibility that shift workers are often deprived of. 

When it comes to shift working, the conversation is often framed from the perspective of the employer and the impact on productivity, profits, and the bottom line. This report looks at shift work through the lens of the individual, giving a voice to over 1000 shift workers who responded from the Breakroom community.   

Despite the pandemic opening up more flexibility to non-shift workers, the report highlights that the working conditions of shift workers remains dire. 

  1. A frightening 66.7% of respondents said that they have experienced mental or physical burnout as a result of shift work

  2. When asked if their individual preferences or needs are taken into consideration in their work schedule, only a mere 21.8% said yes

  3. Regarding flexible working patterns, a resounding 60.3% of respondents said that their shift schedule is not flexible if they ever need to change it

  4. When asked if their employer offers any flexible working options like being able to work split shifts or a 4-day work week, a staggering 73.2% of respondents said no

When Surfboard and Breakroom reported on the state of shift working in 2022, they began to demystify the misconceptions that shift workers were more in control of their time than fixed pattern workers, with 74% of shift workers revealing their shifts are dictated by their role, not their own preferences. 

This year’s findings prove that there is still much more work to be done, and the movements in society in support of flexible working are yet to be passed on to shift workers.

Although conditions for workers seem to have worsened over the past year, Natasha Ratanshi-Stein, Founder & CEO of Surfboard, remains optimistic about the role better technology can play in making lives better for shift workers and their employers through more flexibility and better fairness:

“Despite the shift towards remote and hybrid working opening up opportunities for employers to offer more flexible ways of working, it's disappointing to see the state of shift planning in the UK remains dire for employees.

We remain optimistic that employers want to improve working conditions for shift working but are hamstrung by inadequate scheduling tooling that makes it easy.

Surfboard is committed to providing companies with the tools to ensure a win-win for everyone: fair and flexible ways of shift planning that are easy to manage and maintain high quality service for customers”. 

Breakroom CEO, Anna Maybank had this to say about the report, ”The main learning from this new research is that there is room for improvement in how shift workers are supported and accommodated. We know that those employers who take steps to prioritise the needs of their shift workers are likely to see improved job satisfaction, retention, and overall productivity.

We know from our community that some jobs are advertised as flexible, but too often, what is ‘flexible’ for an employer isn’t flexible for a worker. Employers claim shift work is flexible, but with over 50% of workers reporting that their needs are not taken into account when it comes to shift planning  this is clearly not the case. Our research shows that there is a gap between what an employer thinks is a ‘good’ job and what is actually a good job. Thanks to our community of nearly half a million front-line workers we’re able to help job seekers find out what a job is really like before they apply”. 

Through speaking to many managers, Surfboard has uncovered that many of them do in fact aspire to offer more flexible working options to their team; enabling them to reduce friction and schedule unhappiness at the source by taking the needs and preferences of their team into account, as well as opening up their companies to larger, more diverse pools of talent. 

Unfortunately, many are limited by the functionality of the tools they rely on for shift planning. Spreadsheets are simply not fit for purpose, while many shift planning or WFM (workforce management) software ignore the human aspect of scheduling focusing on employees as resources, not people, and optimising for bums on seats rather than matching preferences and availability to requirements.