Controlling Working Time in the Ward and on the Line

Chris Smith, S. Wise, R. Valsecchi, F. Mueller, Jonathan Gabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose – The purpose of this article is to assess whether tele-nursing in Scotland (NHS24), when
compared with traditional face-to-face nursing, facilitates greater employee control over working time
and therefore a potentially better work-life balance.
Design/methodology/approach – The article draws on evidence from two independent research
projects; a survey of 64 ward nurses and midwives, which involved face-to-face interviews; and a field
study of tele-nursing in a large site in Scotland, using interviews and observations of 15 nurse advisors
or tele-nurses.
Findings – Three elements of work organisation are central in shaping nurses’ working hours and
their control over the balance between their work and their home life: the management of working
hours; the degree of mutual dependency of nurses within teams; and the nature of patient care.
Research limitations/implications – The two pieces of research reported offer a strong basis for
comparative study. However, the two projects were designed independently, though research
questions overlapped and one researcher conducted the field work in both settings; there is an
imbalance in the number of interviews conducted in each setting; and the nurse advisor interviewees
are of the same clinical grade, whereas a variety of grades and clinical areas are represented among the
hospital nurse interviewees.
Originality/value – This is the first study of work-life balance amongst tele-nurses. The research
demonstrates that call centre work has rationalised, depersonalised and yet enabled more “control” by
nurses over their work-life balance, while paradoxically offering less autonomy in their task
environment. In conventional work settings professional values make it difficult for nurses to
disengage from the workplace.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)352-366
Number of pages16
JournalEmployee Relations
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • Nursing, Call centres, Hours of work, Team working, Scotland, National Health Service

Cite this