The world never stops turning and some organizations never stop working no matter what time it is. If you're working the night shift, or responsible for employees who are, you're got to take extra care to stay safe. Sleep deprivation, fatigue, and depression are just some of the more obvious problems that workers on unconventional schedules can face.
To maintain health and sanity all night long, follow these guidelines:
- Provide adequate staffing. Employees working overnight need company to help them stay awake and to provide coverage during breaks. Don't schedule just one or two people for the night shift if they'll need to go all-out for the full eight hours without rest.
- Allow sufficient breaks. Nighttime workers will need more frequent rest breaks, not just time off for lunch or dinner. Give them adequate time to stretch and move around so their concentration stays sharp. If possible, consider working a short nap break into the routine. Studies show that brief naps can improve overall night shift performance.
- Build in some transition time. Don't expect employees to immediately move from night shifts back to daytime work, or vice versa. Schedule a day off or two to help them adjust.
- Include night workers in everyday routine. Keep employees on the night shift informed about what's going on just as diligently as you do with day shift workers. Remember to provide them the same training and development opportunities so they don't feel forgotten or left out.
- Tackle tough tasks first. Anything that demands strength or high levels of concentration should be your first project, not your last. Perform these jobs when you're fresh and your response time is at its peak.
- Stay active. Move around as much as you can to keep your blood flowing and your body energized. If necessary, take a break to sprint for 100 yards or so. This can wake you up and refresh you.
- Keep the lights on. Don't work in darkness. Turn on the lights all around you so you can stay alert and see what you're doing.
- Take breaks as necessary. Give yourself ample time to rest. You won't do your organization or yourself any favors by working to exhaustion, no matter what shift you're on.