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Organisation of Working Time

Employee sits at home workplace and talks on the phone. © Uwe Völkner, FOX photo agency

Working time in the sense of the Working Hours Act (Arbeitszeitgesetz, ArbZG) is the time from the beginning of the work activity to the end of the work activity, excluding rest breaks. The organisation of working time is a central issue of occupational safety and health. The scope of working time is defined in the Working Hours Act, as well as in the Safety and Health at Work Act (ArbSchG) (Arbeitsschutzgesetz, ArbSchG) in the context of risk assessment and in the workplace. Working time is also one of the central regulatory elements of co-determination at company and supra-company level. The organisation of working time is explicitly mentioned as an assessment factor in § 5 of the Safety and Health at Work Act (ArbSchG).

Work processes and working hours must be assessed taking into account the physical and mental stress associated with the activity. Special considerations are necessary, among other things, in the case of an extension of working hours beyond 8 hours, night work and shift work as well as on-call duty and standby duty. Under such working conditions, the following influencing factors should be considered:

  • Length of working hours, standby duty, on-call duty, working hours with other employers
  • Location of working hours and shift organisation (frequency of shift changes, length of shifts, number of shifts in a row, location of shifts), night work (type, duration, extent)
  • Daily and weekly rest periods, break regulations
  • Flexibility requirements, alternation between full time work, standby duty, on-call duty, possibilities for employees’ working time control / control over their working hours
  • Intensity of the activity (type, duration, extent of physical and mental demands, workload during on-call duty and on-call duty)
  • mental stress
  • Reconciling family and work

Findings from occupational science show that employees' health can be impaired by the unfavourable organisation of working hours (e.g. psychosomatic complaints, cardiovascular diseases, gastrointestinal complaints, sleep disorders; see e.g. MORENO et al. MORENO et al., 2019; TUCKER & FOLKARD, 2012). Furthermore, fatigue increases the risk of occupational accidents (e.g. FISCHER et al., 2017). Demands arising from the duration, location and flexibility - or distribution and dynamics - of working time act in different ways and also in combination. The various mechanisms of action can be roughly classified as prolonged exposure to stress, desynchronisation of the internal clock, shortened and unfavourable time for recovery and shortened and unfavourable time for family and other activities (cf. Fig. 10-1). Depending on individual, organisational and situational differences, high working time demands can be accompanied by short- and long-term consequences via these mechanisms of action.

Fig. 10-1 Working time requirements, mechanisms of action and consequences (own representation based on TUCKER & FOLKARD, 2012 and CARUSO et al., 2006) Fig. 10-1 Working time requirements, mechanisms of action and consequences (own representation based on TUCKER & FOLKARD, 2012 and CARUSO et al., 2006)

Within the framework of the hazard factor working time organisation, the following sub-factors are therefore considered here in more detail: Long working hours and work-bound hours, atypical working time (shift and night work, weekend work), working time flexibility requirements, and violation of rest periods and breaks.

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