The state of shift working in the UK 2023

A shift worker working from home while caring for their baby and pets
Written by:
Picture of Natasha Ratanshi-Stein

Natasha Ratanshi-Stein , Founder & CEO

We’ve teamed up with our friends at Breakroom to bring you another insightful report into the state of shift working in the UK. With a focus in the media on flexible working legislation and the 4-day-work-week movement in the UK at the moment, we’ve tailored this year’s survey to highlight the impact this has had on shift workers and the availability of flexible working options for employees in 2023.

With Surfboard’s mission to make work more human with simpler, smarter and fairer scheduling, we couldn’t think of a better partnership than Surfboard x Breakroom to highlight the calamities surrounding shift work in the UK. Breakroom, the people-powered job platform, was founded in 2020 with a simple but powerful idea: Everyone deserves a good job. 

When it comes to shift working, the conversation is often framed from the perspective of the employer and the impact on productivity, profits, and the bottom line. In this report, we look at shift work through the lens of the individual, giving a voice to over 1000 shift workers who responded from the Breakroom community.   

Headlines from the report

We were upset to uncover that the negative impacts of scheduling are still affecting people working shifts everyday. Just look at some of the key stats below:

  1. A frightening 66.7% of respondents said that they have experienced mental or physical burnout as a result of shift work.
  2. When asked if their individual preferences or needs are taken into consideration in their work schedule, only a mere 21.8% said yes.
  3. Regarding flexible working patterns, a resounding 60.3% of respondents said that their shift schedule is not flexible if they ever need to change it.
  4. When asked if their employer offers any flexible working options like being able to work split shifts or a 4-day work week, a staggering 73.2% of respondents said no.

When we reported on the state of shift working in 2022, we broke the misconception that shift workers were more in control of their time than fixed pattern workers, with 74% of shift workers revealing their shifts are dictated by their role, not their own preferences. This year’s findings prove that there is still much more work to be done, and the movements in society in support of flexible working are yet to be passed on to shift workers.

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Our take

Although conditions for workers seem to have worsened over the past year, Natasha Ratanshi-Stein, Founder & CEO of Surfboard, remains optimistic about the role better technology can play in making lives better for shift workers and their employers through more flexibility and better fairness:

“Despite the shift towards remote and hybrid working opening up opportunities for employers to offer more flexible ways of working, it’s disappointing to see the state of shift planning in the UK remains dire for employees.

We remain optimistic that employers want to improve working conditions for shift working but are hamstrung by inadequate scheduling tooling that makes it easy.

Surfboard is committed to providing companies with the tools to ensure a win-win for everyone: fair and flexible ways of shift planning that are easy to manage and maintain high quality customer support”. 

Breakroom CEO, Anna Maybank had this to say about the report, ”The main learning from this new research is that there is room for improvement in how shift workers are supported and accommodated. We know that those employers who take steps to prioritise the needs of their shift workers are likely to see improved job satisfaction, retention, and overall productivity.

We know from our community that some jobs are advertised as flexible, but too often, what is ‘flexible’ for an employer isn’t flexible for a worker. Employers claim shift work is flexible, but with over 50% of workers reporting that their needs are not taken into account when it comes to shift planning  this is clearly not the case. Our research shows that there is a gap between what an employer thinks is a ‘good’ job and what is actually a good job. Thanks to our community of nearly half a million front-line workers we’re able to help job seekers find out what a job is really like before they apply”. 

How Surfboard can enable better planning for teams

Through our own research, we’ve spoken with many customer support teams’ who aspire to offer more flexible working options to their surfers; enabling them to reduce friction and schedule unhappiness at the source by taking the needs and preferences of their team into account, as well as opening up their companies to larger, more diverse pools of talent. 

Unfortunately, many are limited by the functionality of the tools they rely on for shift planning. Spreadsheets are simply not fit for purpose, while many shift planning or WFM (workforce management) software ignore the human aspect of scheduling focusing on employees as resources, not people. 

At Surfboard, we believe that every team and surfer deserves the right to fair and flexible shift planning, and we’ve built our tools to support that:

  • Easily plan split shifts to accommodate personal responsibilities like childcare or education.
  • Create custom shift patterns per surfer, allowing you to create a pattern that works for every team member, including 4-day weeks or compressed hours.
  • Use round robins to fairly distribute additional shifts to your team, including awarding time off in lieu so surfers get the rest they deserve. 
  • Prepare and share schedules for seasonal peaks like Christmas or Summer holidays earlier in advance using our Shift Plans and Publish tools, enabling your team to better plan their personal lives around their work.
  • Gather and view working availability from part-time, freelance or flexible surfers in one place, so you can create schedules to fit around their own needs or commitments, as well as the business’.
  • Sync time off and calendar events to the schedule, so you have one source of truth for everything happening in your team, from holidays and sickness to appointments and development.

At Surfboard, we’re building software to empower companies to make work more human, starting with fair and flexible shift planning. Along with our friends from Breakroom, we’ll both keep fighting towards our joint goal of making shift work better for everyone.

Get the full report

The findings we’ve mentioned in this blog are just the tip of the iceberg. To get the detailed state of shift working 2023 report from Surfboard & Breakroom, follow the link below to download the full PDF.

Get the report