Impact of Shift Work Pattern on Employees' Health and Life Work Balance Within the Aviation Industry

Document Type:Thesis

Subject Area:Management

Document 1

In doing this, the human resource department works to ensure employees are in good mental, physical and psychological shape to deliver their duties. This wellbeing is normally affected by the shift work pattern especially in the medical and aviation industry. Much scientific research has been carried on this issue specifically in the medical industry but a lot more is to be done in the aviation industry. Cabin crew and pilots make up some of the key players in the aviation industry as employees. Various airline companies assign them shifts that vary between long haul flights and short haul flights. It is through scientific research that gainful insight can be obtained to help address the impact of shift work pattern on health and life work balance of aviation industry employees.

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And, in this specific area not much research has been done. It is true that the shift work pattern puts the aviation industry employees out of rhythm especially with the natural biological adaptations and functioning of the human body and mind (Bennett, 1).  Not only that, it also puts them out of rhythm with their friends and family, social lives and the normal routines of the community. This in turn affects the quality of life of these employees. Pilots are also affected by fatigue due to their shift work pattern either during long haul or short haul flights. In a survey to identify what fatigue really means to pilots, questionnaires were designed to obtain information on the perceived causes of fatigue, and the signs and symptoms among the pilots who reported fatigue.

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The study also aimed to identify means of minimizing the impact of fatigue on these pilots. Among the 739 Airline pilots involved in the survey, nights flights accounted for fatigue among 59% of them while jet lag accounted for fatigue among 45% of the pilots (Bourgeois-Bougrine, Samira, 1073). On the other hand, during short haul flights, 53% of the pilots reported fatigue dur to extended periods of duty which included multi-segmented flights spread between 4 to 5 days while 41% of the pilots reported fatigue because of successive early rising (Bourgeois-Bougrine, Samira, 1074). The study involved a self-administered questionnaire and the Functional fitness test. The test and the questionnaire were filled at the beginning of the study and done again after five years (Honkanen, Tuomas, 32). The results indicated an overall prevalence of Lower back pain at 71% while the prevalence of Lower back pain due to flight reasons were at 31% at the beginning of the study (Honkanen, Tuomas, 33).

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The study therefore, concludes that Lower back pain is associated with flying as well as other physical tasks not related to flying. This research identified that there is a need to carry out more sensitive tests to determine how flying increases the risk of lower back pain among pilots (Honkanen, Tuomas, 34). The results show that job stressors substantively affect job dissatisfaction and lead to psychological distress (MacDonald, 712). The research recommends that reducing job stressors and improving social support would be a positive move towards making better the welfare and job satisfaction of the female flight attendants (MacDonald, 714). Moreover, shift work pattern impacts negatively on the life work balance female attendants. According to a research on work and family conflict experience among women working on selected Chinese airlines, work schedules and obligations cause the main conflict among Chinese women.

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Family related factors do not necessarily influence the conflict since social and cultural factors determine how family relates rather than shift work schedules (Ren, Deborah, 341). According to the empirical findings of the research, at least 95% of pilots reported spending time away from home (Bennett, 1).  Out of these 52% reported spending at least 75 nights away from home while 43% of the pilots reported feelings isolated or lonely while away on duty (Bennett, 1).  In addition, more that 40% of the pilots reported that their work life had been affected by their relationship with their significant other or children (Bennett, 1).  Of this number, 20% reported having sought help and guidance for a relationship issue at home (Bennett, 1).   Many of the pilots had discussed these issues with their trusted workmates, and friends out of work as well as the family doctor (Bennett, 1).

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It is evident that most dealt with health issues are stress, fatigue and a few have also touched on lower back pain among military pilots. This leaves a gap in addressing other key issues that are of concern especially in our world today. An example is that, conclusive research has not been conducted to study the risk of getting cancer because of exposure to radiation and sunlight. Also, commercial pilots have not been studied extensively on the possibility of long sitting hours causing lower back pain and other health risks. There are also possibilities that stress, and fatigue could lead to further health complications a subject not much dealt with. The research may also be expensive and time consuming incase a large sample is involved.

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