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Shift work and compatibility

How shift work can be combined with family life


Shift work and compatibility - how can this succeed?

In recent years, working from home has received a lot of attention. But by no means all employees can pursue their jobs at home. Professions involving shift work require great flexibility. We explain how work-life balance can still work.

Shift work in challenging times

Working at unusual hours. For employees in manufacturing, care services or parcel delivery, it's part of the job description. Around 15 percent of the population regularly work in the evening or at night. Shift work is the norm in many industries and has been particularly challenging in recent years. Precisely because many people in shift work are committed to the health and well-being of others, compatibility-oriented and health-promoting framework conditions are of even greater importance in these professions. So what can your employer do to make shift work family-friendly?

Taking individual life situations into account

One of the most important success factors for family-friendly shift work is the consideration of different life situations. Whether raising children or caring for relatives - the individual coordination of different needs is the basis for an optimal shift design. Personal preferences can turn out to be a real advantage if, for example, "early risers" and "night owls" can be brought into a rhythm.

The burdens of shift operation must be distributed well and fairly across all shoulders of the workforce. Additional burdens, such as filling in when staff are ill, must be taken into account in planning.

Innovative approaches for shift operation

With this knowledge, concrete approaches to shift planning can be developed and innovative ideas introduced. This works best when those affected are directly involved in the design process. After all, the shift workers themselves not only know their personal needs, but also the processes in the company. Here are some examples:

  • Further training and qualification of employees, who are thus more broadly applicable and can work in other shift schedules or even outside the shift model.
  • Use of modern IT tools, with which shift work schedules can be planned more individually.
  • More time sovereignty through annual working time accounts.
  • More say of the employees, for example, through wish duty schedules.
  • Reduction of night and weekend operations, as far as possible.

Another important keyword is flexibility. Shift work and compatibility work primarily when employees are given as much autonomy as possible. Voluntariness can have a positive effect on shift scheduling, especially if shifts may also be swapped spontaneously

Where to find help and advice?

You work shift work and want more flexibility? Talk openly with your employer about possibilities for change. You can find a wide variety of measures and ideas for organizing shift work, for example, on the website of the German Social Accident Insurance


More informationLinks for further reading

The German Trade Union Confederation lists the minimum standards for relief, plannability and participation of shift work in the public sector:

The Deutsche Handwerks-Zeitung has summarized interesting facts about shift work for companies and employees: