CE26 - Innovation, travail

Working non-standard hours: employer practices and family adjustments – Worklife

Submission summary

Non-standard working hours (night, weekend, long hours) are experiencing unprecedented growth and are spreading to many countries and sectors of the economy. While the United States is described as a round-the-clock economy, one in five employees now work regularly at night in Europe, and 42% of French employees are involved in at least one type of non-standard work schedule. All socio-professional categories are concerned, though the form and intensity of the hours differ. In some sectors, non-standard working hours are contractual to ensure the continuity of social life (health, transport, police and security); in other sectors (consulting, investment banking, etc.), they are the result of institutional cultures where long working hours are valued as a professional standard and a sign of investment in work.

The rapid increase in non-standard working hours is linked to various factors: the population’s rising health needs, changing lifestyles and consumption patterns, digital technologies, and a more flexible labour market. It poses massive challenges for public authorities in terms of health, population and gender outcomes. Non-standard schedules disrupt the rhythms of biological and social life defined by schools and public administrations. In addition, dual-income couples in Europe are facing increasing desynchronization of their schedules.

To address this major challenge, the objective of the WORKLIFE project is twofold: (1) to analyse the effects of non-standard working hours on family dynamics (fertility behavior, birth timing, birth spacing ; marriage and dissolution risk ; task-sharing in the domestic sphere); (2) to understand the role of employers in employee trade-offs and family adjustments. Our hypothesis is that non-standard working hours produce disruptions in family and marital life, with variations according to gender, work patterns of spouses (standard vs non-standard hours), and corporate policies (financial compensations, time flexibility and work arrangement, women mentoring program, etc.). Indeed, in France, corporate policies regarding work–life balance vary widely from one sector to another ; and family policy, although described as generous among European countries, is focused on parents of young children rather than on supporting work–life balance throughout working life.

Thus, after having characterized the situation of employees working non-standard hours in France and Europe through panel data (Gender & Generation Surveys; Working Conditions Surveys), we will focus on four large French companies and administrations particularly affected by non-standard working hours in the consulting, health, transport, and energy sectors. For each case study, we collect the company's HR files and conduct in-depth interviews with a panel of employees working non-standard hours (N=120); we repeat the interviews 12 months later for those facing major changes in professional and/or family life (birth, divorce, part time, etc.). The interest of this comparative and longitudinal approach is threefold: to identify work–life balance trajectories among life course ; to differentiate and quantify variability in family outcomes that are attributable to individual factors (gender, education, family situation) and to the professional environment ; and to identify the disruption effects linked to the introduction of new work–life balance policies.

In short, through its original longitudinal approach, the WORKLIFE project will renew the field of work–life balance research, largely dominated by cross-sectional approaches that focus on conciliation and conflicts at a given point in a career. The project is supported by an interdisciplinary team (sociology, economics, management sciences, demography) and an international scientific committee, specialized in mixed methods and longitudinal analyses.

Project coordination

Anne Lambert (Institut national d'études démographiques)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


INED Institut national d'études démographiques

Help of the ANR 314,215 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: December 2019 - 36 Months

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