Managing 24/7

10 Tips to Perk Up the Night Shift


Need to perk up on the night shift? Here are 10 ideas from real 24/7 operations to improve workers’ performance, reduce safety problems, boost morale and generally make things run more smoothly.

Tip #1: Use email to keep in regular contact. Night shift workers can sometimes feel out of touch with their daytime managers. With proper precautions about overuse and etiquette, e-mail is an ideal tool for smooth communication in many operations. If employees already use computers, you can provide them with a daily update on company operations when they sign on upon arrival at work. And employees with home computers can log into the e-mail system when they want an update before coming to work. You can even use free applications to pre-schedule friendly emails to be sent in the middle of their shifts.

Tip #2: Get people moving. Research shows that exercise during the overnight hours boosts alertness. Aside from the obvious health benefits of regular exercise, night shift exercise even leads to better daytime sleep and more well-rested shiftworkers. Workers who stay in a single location could try using a walking desk, stationary bike or free weights while they work. Mobile workers can try taking a break every hour to stretch their legs and walk around. Make exercise equipment available and visible in the break room for all shiftworkers.

Tip #3: Provide healthy snacks. An irony of most workplaces is that the foods usually most readily available at work in vending machines and cafeterias — doughnuts, candy, cheese sandwiches, burgers etc. — are not particularly healthy choices. You can help out workers by providing fruits, vegetables, and other options in your cafeteria or vending machines.

Tip #4: Subsidize extended-hour childcare. Finding quality childcare that operates during irregular working hours is nearly impossible in much of the world. This means added stress on your workers’ home and family life. Many companies provide on site day care centers where employees can drop off and pick up their kids without any hassle, in some cases even subsidizing the costs.

Tip #5: Train your shiftworkers. Whether they’ve been working nights for ten years or ten days, every shiftworker can benefit from training on how to stay safe, effective and alert during night shiftwork. Providing your employees with training and education materials on shiftwork will help them get and stay adjusted – and make it clear how valuable you find them.

Tip #6: Allow music in the workplace. There aren’t many ways to perk up better than movin’ to the music. Few tactics are more effective for improving shiftworker morale than allowing workers to listen to music — particularly in monotonous jobs. Research has even shown that music enhances alertness and improves productivity.

Tip #7: Stay approachable. If your workers are having trouble staying up through the night shift, make sure you effectively communicate policies on how they can let you know. Help them identify ways to make the night shift easier for them, and make sure you keep your ears and your office door open for shiftworkers having trouble. After all, if your workers feel nervous about letting you know they’re dragging, they may not tell you – and if that happens, little problems can easily snowball into big ones.

Tip #8: Allow napping on breaks. Several studies show that short naps of 15 to 20 minutes provide an alertness boost that lasts several hours. A growing number of 24x7 companies allow employees to take quick naps during breaks, so they can restart work safer and more alert.

Tip #9: Start their engines. The only thing more annoying than finding your car battery dead at 5:30 p.m. is finding it dead at midnight or 7 a.m. To take one hassle out of workers’ lives, some employers offer a free car-starting service. Employees can call a nearby contracted company to jumpstart cars, and help usually arrives in minutes.

Tip #10: Be flexible about shift changes. Allowing workers to arrange their own shift change times can be a real morale booster. When safety and work rules permit, this sort of flexibility is greatly appreciated by shiftworkers.

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