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Time out for family: Shift work, fathers, and sports

Human Resource Management
Wiley Blackwell (John Wiley & Sons)
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Shift work is a fact of life for many workers. Almost one in six full-time hourly and salary employees works a shift outside the 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. window that researchers use to define the temporal bounds of the traditional workday. Almost half of those working in restaurants and bars work such alternate shifts, as do more than a quarter of workers in hospitals and manufacturing facilities. Drawing on interviews and observations in a Midwestern auto parts plant, this study explores how individuals in this predominantly male workforce talk about fulfilling family responsibilities in the face of relatively inflexible shift schedules. Interviews and observations reveal how the time pressures of shift work, particularly the afternoon-evening shift, affect the ability of fathers to participate in their children's activities, especially organized sports. Without formal options for scheduling flexibility, workers turn to a variety of informal approaches, such as ad hoc arrangements with sympathetic supervisors or the assistance of coworkers in covering for absences. In extreme cases, workers may engage in independent actions, often placing their jobs at risk. These findings contribute to the literature on work-family conflict and the gender dynamics of work-family life programs. By emphasizing the importance of including fathers in the work-family equation, they have practical implications for both employers and policymakers concerned with addressing the challenges of helping a contemporary workforce strike an equitable balance between work and family life. © 2008 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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