Nearly 16% of U.S. workers work non-daytime shifts, including nights, evenings, split shifts, and irregular schedules. As we’re living in a 24-hour society with the rapid growth of consumerism, more and more people are working around the clock to provide products and services.
Night shifts, taking place from about 11 p.m. to 8 a.m, are very common in many industries and occupations. However, working through the night for a prolonged period of time can cause several health and work issues, affecting both employees and your business.
As an employer, what do you need to know about night shifts? More importantly, what can you do to help your night-shift workers maintain their health and deliver their best work? Let’s dive right in.
Advantages of night shifts
Working around the clock certainly helps companies keep up with the increasing demand of the market. Your business can produce more goods, develop more services, or be always on hand to support customers.
Disadvantages of night shifts
Despite the profitable and productive side of night shifts, working at non-daytime hours can take a toll on your employees’ health. Roughly 10% of people who work night shifts and rotating shifts have a shift-work sleep disorder.
Employees indeed face many health risks: cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, mental problems, reduced immunity, long-term sleep deprivation, gastrointestinal problems, etc.
Research has shown that a company may have to pay over $3,200 a year for health costs of each employee with sleep deprivation.
The lack of management at night can also affect the productivity and the safety of employees. This means employers need to hire a manager to monitor their staff.
Businesses operating at night often face the threats of criminals, so managers need to consider hiring safeguards and installing security systems to prevent burglars, vandals, and thieves.
To keep your employees awake and alert, you have to establish more breaks compared to day-time shifts.
Not appealing to workers
Occupations that require night shifts are less appealing to job-seekers because people have become more health-conscious and they are aware of the consequences of night shifts.
Working through the night can disrupt people’s natural sleep cycle, cause health problems, and lessen their opportunities to spend time with family and friends on day-time activities.
If the perks of night shifts are not attractive enough, your staff will be more likely to quit, or not work at their best.
Workplace injuries and errors
An analysis has found that sleep problems increase the risk of injuries at the workplace by 62 percent (Uehli et al., 2014). Another study has shown that the risks of injuries and errors in night shifts are 28% higher compared to day shifts.
Those numbers are understandable as working at night disrupts the natural circadian rhythms of human bodies, resulting in reduced attention, productivity, and reaction to unexpected situations. Workers’ judgment and motor skills are also lower at night. Some may even doze off on their shifts, which can be dangerous if they’re working with machines.
Therefore, companies need to invest in safety measures to protect the employees and avoid unexpected accidents that may affect the business’ reputation.
10 ways to manage night shifts
1. Offer a health assessment and risk assessments
Whenever you hire new employees, you need to offer them a health assessment to see whether they’re suitable for handling night shifts or not.
Always keep records of these assessments and total work hours of employees to prove that you’ve offered them a health assessment, as well as not making them work excessively.
Additionally, risk assessments can help you identify hazards and prevent workplace injuries.
2. Communicate and support your staff
Talk to your employees about sleep, including sleep-related problems and solutions; night work risks; tips to stay healthy; and sources they can come to for support; as well as health and wellness programs that they can join.
Encourage your staff to have regular physical exams and seeking help when they’re in need. Let workers know that you care about them, not just how much they can do for you.
3. Create a resting area for your employees
Allowing your employees to have some minutes of resting can increase their alertness and productivity tremendously. There are a few tips you need to remember when creating an ideal resting area for your workers:
1. Keep the room cool, dark, secluded, and quiet
2. Provide sleep mask and earplugs
4. Allow nap during breaks/establish rotating breaks
Research has shown that naps of 10-20 minutes are most beneficial. You can establish nap policies allowing your staff to have some short naps during their breaks. Rotating breaks are ideal because there’ll always be someone on the job while others can rest.
5. Provide a good environment, food, and tools for night-shift employees
The workspace for the night-shift staff needs good lighting, ventilation, and even anti-fatigue rubber mats if you have standing employees.
Provide your workers with healthy snacks and drinks such as fruits, veggies, and low-sugar juice instead of junk food because they are better for your employees’ health.
6. Have someone monitor night-shift workers
A shift manager is needed to identify signs of fatigue, health issues, and mental problems so as to intervene right on time before things get worse. Workers are also more alert if there’s a manager on site.
7. Hire adequate staff
Hire adequate staff so that employees can take breaks in turn. There should be at least two people working on the shift in case one of them dozes off.
8. Limit overtime and rotations
You should minimize overtime hours and rotations as overworking and changing workers’ sleep patterns easily cause pitfalls and compromised performance. You also need to avoid letting your employees work many nights consecutively by letting them have 3 nights on, 3 nights off, for instance.
9. Offer attractive perks
Night-shift jobs appear to be less attractive, so you can offer more appealing perks such as a higher wage to attract talented and competent workers.
10. Create a predictable and well-organized work schedule
It can take days for your staff’s bodies to adjust to a new sleep schedule. If you’re planning to change someone’s shifts from daytime to nighttime, make sure to notify them about the changes in schedule so that they can gradually adjust their sleep pattern.
A predictable and well-organized schedule allows employees to adjust gradually to night shifts. If you find scheduling too difficult, apps like Camelo can help you assign and manage shifts easily right on your phone.