The website of the ICOH Committee on Shiftwork and Working Time, a committee of the International Commission on Occupational Health (ICOH)

Dear colleagues, participants of the 22nd International Symposium on Shiftwork and Working Time

Welcome to our symposium in Denmark!

I am glad being here to meet the colleagues who are participating in this symposium. This is the third time I have the honor of being invited as the President of the Working Time Society to participate in the symposium opening session.

The shiftwork symposia have been part of my life since 1982, when it was held in Kyoto, Japan, organized by Prof. Kogi and colleagues. Along these many years the papers presented at the symposia were at the upfront of science of this discipline. Since then, the knowledge about the effects of working time, shiftwork and night work, as well as proposals of interventions to ameliorate, maintain and improve workers´ health had a tremendous advancement. Unfortunately, knowledge was not always followed by practical actions that should be promoted by the society, institutions and organizations.

I would like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts with you.

The world of work is very dynamic. It keeps changing in terms of products, goals, and rules. Our post-industrial society still faces old and new challenges and often, both are superimposed in the workplaces. As examples of the “old” practices, work was performed in well-defined places, in specific plants and work environments, regular working hours and shifts, and off-working times. Industry and trade provided the majority of jobs. Nowadays, services are an important source for jobs in most of industrial and more recent industrialized countries. There is a growing number of workers suffering from work-related diseases, including mental illnesses associated with psychosocial risks at work.  

The new ways work is planned and carried out is no longer that one seen in traditional industries and described in our textbooks and scientific articles published up to 25-30 years ago. The work processes and the work management changed significantly. It came up with the wave of the intense globalization. The new workplaces may not have physical and temporal boundaries- they can be at anyplace, anytime, at a determined plant or shop, or at the workers´ home, a virtual work environment. It can last an undefined period of time, or have a short/ temporary duration (Mendes, 2015).

The newer work organization can be planned in central developed countries and implemented, outsourced, be part of a production chain or network in different countries, thousands of kilometers far from the headquarters, in places with reduced workers´ protection and benefits. Working times may no longer be limited, but set by pre-determined goals to be reached.  All of these can happen either due to economic constraints and/or just to new economic trends of managing work.     

Environmental issues and public health are among the main concerns of the modern society. Healthy workplaces are also dependent of the organizational models adopted including the working time organization. As important demographic changes are being recorded in most countries- such as a more educated and skilled workforce, more women at work, a large number of aging workers- a new approach to maintain and improve workers´ health requires a multi professional and multidisciplinary teams to implement good practices at work, either if this work is performed under a company´s roof, rural areas, or at the workers´ homes.

Regarding the working time issues, the combined environmental and organizational factors should not be forgotten when studying the effects of the working time. This is particularly important as usual there are numerous stressors, either physical, cognitive and/or emotional stressors affecting the workers. Also, as some countries still do not provide safe and adequate living conditions, these can exacerbate illnesses and fatalities. The growing number of non-communicable chronic diseases associated with irregular working times, night and shiftwork, can be aggravated by unhealthy practices.

Employers agree that a good management of the human capital is a very significant factor of production and competitiveness whether is a private or governmental institution or company. As much as the quality of working conditions is enhanced, health and wellbeing of the workers will be the likely outcomes.  It is our role to continue to provide information and extend our knowledge and expertise to the society. I hope we succeed in this mission helping to improve the working conditions and ultimately the workers´ health and wellbeing.  

It is time to remember a good friend that left us few months ago- I am speaking of Prof. Donald Tepas. He was one of the pioneers of our discipline. He mentored several of us, and left a legacy of important publications that advanced the knowledge on night and shiftwork. He will be missed by his many friends and colleagues!

During these years as the President of our society, I have the strong collaboration of the colleagues who belong to the Board. We hold regular virtual meetings discussing several issues that matters to our society. The names of the colleagues that are presently helping the advancement of our society are: Steve Popkin (as Secretary), Anna Arlinghaus (as Treasurer), Claudia Moreno, Arne Lowden, Sampsa Puttonen, Masaya Takahashi, Imelda Wong, Thomas Kantermann, Greg Roach and Hans Van Dongen, and Friedhelm Nachreiner (SINET moderator list).

I would like to thank Prof. Kazutaka Kogi, the two-term President of the ICOH- International Commission on Occupational Health. My admiration to Prof. Kogi dates back since 1982 when I first met him in Kyoto. Thank you for encouraging and supporting us during all these years.

I would like to thank the publisher of Chronobiology International and the Scientific Editor, Prof. Francesco Portaluppi for their continuous support to our society, providing every two years a special issue free of charge to publish selected manuscripts submitted after the symposium.  I also would like to thank the publisher and the Scientific Editor of the Scandinavian Journal of Environment Occupational Health, Prof. Mikko Harma for providing room free of charge to publish articles presented during the symposium. This tradition of publication in both journals will continue.

On behalf of all Working Time Society members, I would like to extend my gratitude to the organizing committee of the 22nd International Symposium on Shiftwork and Working Time, namely, Anne Helene Garde,  Chair of this meeting, Ase Marie Hansen, Johnni Hansen, Henrik Kolstad and respective research, educational institutions and companies that support them and this current meeting.

To all colleagues, thank you for doing what you are doing, and being here!

Frida Marina Fischer

President Working Time Society

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