Unpredictable working time, well-being and health in the police service

Dora Scholarios*, Hannah Hesselgreaves, Raymond Pratt

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


The unpredictability of working time is a seldom studied feature of employment. This paper proposes that unpredictability in scheduling is associated with greater employee work-life conflict and perceived stress. This, in turn, has implications for health behaviour (alcohol consumption, sleep disturbance) and symptoms (digestive and cardiovascular problems). Increasing employee control through flexible working arrangements (FWA) is examined as a potential moderator. We also examine the possibility that alcohol consumption exacerbates the negative effects of unpredictability on well-being and health. A survey of 1207 police officers, for whom working unsocial hours is commonly accepted, showed direct effects of unpredictability over and above nonstandard hours on digestive health, and indirect effects through well-being on sleep, digestive and cardiovascular health. In some cases, these indirect effects were reduced or absent with greater employee control through FWA, although this was not uniform. Alcohol consumption intensified the effects of unpredictability on well-being and some health outcomes. As well as highlighting unpredictability as a key dimension of working time quality, the findings reflect a tension between employer-centred scheduling strategies for enhancing workforce flexibility and HRM practices, such as FWA, which purport to provide employees with greater control and work-life balance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2275-2298
JournalThe International Journal of Human Resource Management
Issue number16
Early online date25 Apr 2017
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2017
Externally publishedYes


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