White-collar workers who worked at an office where a discretionary work scheme had been introduced for those in managerial positions were surveyed in August 1999 in a prospective framework in order to explore the effects of a discretionary work scheme on the association of working hours and vacations with workers' health. Two hundred and eight eligible male workers aged 35 to 60 were examined, and the following were major findings: Whether workers were engaged in discretionary work or not was directly related to neither working hours and vacation measures nor workers' health. When workers were divided into two groups, those engaged in discretionary work (n=147, mean age: 46.1 ± 5.9) and those who were not (n=61, mean age: 45.4 ± 7.2), the percentages of those with health problems significantly decreased only for the latter along with an increase in paid holidays and chances of successive days of vacation during the past year (p<0.01 and p<0.05, respectively). And for those engaged in non-discretionary work, the percentages of workers judged to be distressed significantly decreased with increasing chances of successive days of vacation (p<0.01). That is, a discretionary work scheme did not have any unfavorable effect on working hours, vacations or the health of the subjective workers, and it only modified the association of vacations with workers' health in the direction in which that association was weakened. On the other hand, working hours showed no association with workers' health, irrespective of the work scheme. Although a discretionary work scheme included occupational positions, the practical difference could result in that of the range or level of discretion in performing work and workers' awareness of working hours. For those engaged in discretionary work, the amount of workload seemed to be hardly proportionate to the number of hours worked, and that could explain the obscure associations between working hours, vacations and health. The findings obtained here have to be explored through further studies in other workplaces.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health