2019 Volume 57 Issue 2 Pages 201-212
There is no standard definition of shift work universally, and no validated report of complete biological adjustment to shift work in workers. Similarly, the evidence for shift work tolerance is limited due to a small number of studies and a narrow range of outcome measures. This paper discusses evidence to date regarding individual differences in shift work tolerance and highlights areas for future research and recommendations for workplace practice. The few factors that are consistently associated with perceived or actual shift work tolerance are young age, low scores of morningness or being a late chronotype, low scores of languidity and neuroticism, high scores on extraversion, internal locus of control and flexibility and male sex. An important first step is to differentiate between factors that are potentially modifiable, such as those that are determined by lifestyle choices, and those factors specific to the working time arrangement. Identifying determinants of shift work tolerance and the ability to adjust to shift work, whether they are innate and/or acquired mechanisms, is important so workers who are less likely to tolerate shift work well can be self-identified and supported with appropriate harm/risk minimization strategies. This paper also identifies important areas for future research with the goal of increasing the evidence base on which we can develop evidence-based harm mitigation strategies for shift workers.