Improving the Work Environment for Night-Shift Workers

By Judy Artunian, writer
Aug 28, 2011
Image Credit: Monkeybusinessimages / Getty Images

Help employees who work between 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. enhance their productivity and job satisfaction

Our global economy has spawned a burgeoning population of workers who do their jobs when everyone else is asleep. Whether they work the wee hours at a warehouse or a call center, night-shift employees are prone to a level of fatigue that can make them grouchy and accident prone, as well as just plain sleepy. That’s because when human beings work all night and sleep during the day, they challenge their natural wake-sleep pattern. It doesn’t help that night-shift employees tend to sleep less than their day-shift counterparts, and the sleep they do get isn’t as restful. They can unwittingly compound their fatigue if they sleep at a different time of day during their days off.

You can help your night-shift staff be more rested and productive by:
1. Providing a work environment that promotes good health.
2. Being mindful of the challenges they face when trying to get enough sleep.
3. Consistently reminding them that management values their work.

Lighten Up

If your night-shift employees are working under dim lights their mood and energy level will sag. Bright lights act as a signal to the body to perk up. Talk to commercial lighting sellers about the lighting options for your employees’ work spaces.

Keep it Cool

A cool workplace is a productive workplace. Even a slightly warm room can hamper job performance. Portable fans and ceiling fans can be an effective and economical way to bring the temperature down to more comfortable levels.

Consult a night-shift consultant

If you need help with issues related to night-shift productivity, talk to an expert who specializes in solving problems that are unique to night-time work environments.

Energize your snacks

When break time arrives, give workers access to snacks that will give them a boost. Replace foods laden with sugar and saturated fat (think traditional potato chips and cookies) with healthier snacks such as nuts and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Workout at work

Another way to ward off fatigue is to get a little exercise during breaks. Create a recreation space where employees can play games that involve physical activity, such as billiards or table tennis. Provide hand weights and other options for those who prefer to do light workouts on their own.

Provide a rest stop

Give employees a quiet area or two where they can decompress during breaks. These rest areas should have subdued lighting and comfortable seating, including cots for those who want to take a quick nap.

Show appreciation

Night shift workers often feel cut off from the company’s day-to-day activities. That includes the occasional “job well done” comments from management. Don’t skimp on compliments. It doesn’t hurt to also reward employees with tangible gifts when they have met a tough goal or gone beyond the call of duty.
  • A powerful way to let night workers know that they are an important part of the workforce is to have an executive pay a visit during a night-shift break period. The executive can hold an “after-hours” version of a company meeting that took place earlier in the day, field questions and comments from employees, or just walk around and chat with workers.
  • Don’t ask employees to change from day to night shifts too frequently. To allow their body clock to adjust, let people work for at least three months on one shift before switching them to another one.
  • Continuous, faint humming sounds can make workers drowsy. They’ll feel more alert if they are working in an area with a variety of background noises.
  • Encourage workers who feel sleepy at the end of their shift to take a nap before they get behind the wheel. Also remind them to immediately pull over if they feel sleepy while driving. Contrary to popular assumptions, opening the car windows or listening to the radio won’t keep them awake.
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