Shift workers are a valuable asset to any company, but they are also human resource’s most difficult challenge and most expensive employment cost. Companies that depend on shift work should strive to mitigate the negative impacts of this schedule and implement positive policies and helpful procedures.
The most important thing is to minimize overtime and shift variances. A shift worker may already have sleep challenges and eating difficulties, so an unpredictable schedule will only exacerbate this problem. Irregular schedules will also create interpersonal stress for workers because they may be unable to see their partners, children and friends. Keep in mind that a shift worker must carefully schedule important activities with friends and family, such as birthday parties and school events. The best way is to keep track of employees’ preferences by using scheduling surveys that prioritize their ideal time frames and levels of tolerance for ambiguity and variance.
Implement Additional Safety Measures
Employers can increase their nocturnal employees’ safety by creating work environments that help people stay awake and focused. First, ensure that lighting is bright enough to resemble natural daylight. Second, make sure that room noise is not low or repetitive. This is important for humming equipment or isolated rooms with minimal human contact. Allowing employees to listen to upbeat music or the radio during their shifts will create an energetic environment. However, production workers who must maintain situational awareness should not listen to music because this creates attention and safety hazards. Warm room temperatures will stimulate sleepiness, but cool air will help workers remain alert.
An easy way to increase safety and productivity is to empower employees to arrange their workloads based on the levels of difficulty and concentration. That is, workers should complete tasks that require the most skill and concentration at the beginning of their shifts when they are most alert. Most night workers will experience the highest levels of drowsiness during three to five am. Encourage workers who are especially drowsy or exhausted to take alternate transportation instead of driving home. This is usually public transportation or a friend or family member who picks them up at work. Those who drive home should avoid roads that require intense driving like rapidly changing lanes or merging onto highways.
Maintain Employee Engagement
Night workers who are kept out of the loop and often forgotten will naturally become disgruntled. These workers may be left out of staff meetings, miss out on important communications and not have contact with key management members. Companies that host free lunches or fun activities for day employees may forget about the night workers. Keep these workers in touch with the company by helping them feel valued and connected. Have management occasionally stop by to touch base with employees. When in doubt, offer more free food and drinks to these workers as a production incentive.
Night Work Tips
Give night workers more flexible breaks to help them re-energize themselves. OSHA only requires a 10 minute break every four hours, but night workers need more opportunities to take a brief walk, drink coffee, chat with others, connect with a supervisor and get some fresh air. This will help them to better concentrate on their work, which will increase overall productivity and reduce accidents and unsafe behaviors. Many manufacturing companies hand out fitness visuals that explain how to stretch and light exercise during breaks. If extra breaks aren’t an option, structure work tasks to avoid employees being forced to sit in one place for long periods.
Shift work is an excellent way to keep production and business running, but it must be properly managed. Business supervisors and owners can learn more tips for managing shift workers at the Society for Human Resources Management’s (SHRM) website.