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June, 2000, Vol. 123, No.6
Flexible schedules and shift work: replacing the '9-to-5' workday?
Thomas M. Beers
Traditionally, much of the American labor force has worked in a structured environment, with the work schedule following a set pattern—what many people have termed the "9-to-5" workday. Recent studies show that employers are beginning to recognize that many workers prefer schedules that allow greater flexibility in choosing the times they begin and end their workday. Consequently, increasing numbers and proportions of full-time workers in the United States are able to opt for flexible work hours, allowing workers to vary the actual times they arrive and leave the work place. For some workers, however, the nature of their jobs requires that they work a schedule other than a regular day shift, what may be termed an "alternative shift."1 Examples of such alternative shift workers are police officers, emergency room physicians, and assembly-line workers at a factory.
In contrast to the increasing proportion of workers with flexible work schedules, the incidence of shift work has not changed since the mid-1980s. If not for the sizable job gains in service occupations, the overall proportion of workers on shift work would have edged down in recent years.
Recent data on flexible work hours and shift work are from information collected in the May 1997 supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS).2 This article uses that supplement to examine both the incidence and trends in flexible work hours and alternative shift work and, also, the relationship between the jobs in which people work and the prevalence of these digressions from the more traditional "9-to-5" workday.
This excerpt is from an article published in the June 2000 issue of the Monthly Labor Review. The full text of the article is available in Adobe Acrobat's Portable Document Format (PDF). See How to view a PDF file for more information.
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1 Throughout this article the two terms "alternative shift" and "shift work" refer to all work schedules that do not conform to the regular daytime schedule, for which work hours typically fall between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
2 The source of the data used in this article is the May 1997 supplement to the Current Population Survey (CPS). The CPS is a monthly survey of about 50,000 households, conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The employment estimates for the period under study have been affected by a number of factors. Official data for 1990 and later years incorporate 1990 census-based population controls, adjusted for the estimated undercount, whereas prior data are based on 1980 census-based population controls, for which no such adjustment has been made.
In addition, data for January 1994 and forward are not strictly comparable with data for earlier years because of the introduction of a major redesign of the CPS questionnaire and collection methodology. For additional information on the redesign, see "Revisions in the Current Population Survey Effective January 1994," in the February 1994 issue of the BLS periodical Employment and Earnings.
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