Beyond Nine to Five – Help Your Whole Workforce Thrive

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Tips for Managing Shift Work

Shift WorkerIn our global economy, now more than ever, we're aware that it's always the middle of a workday somewhere. Many industries have people working around the clock, from call centers to manufacturers to law enforcement to hospitality to healthcare to emergency services and more.

Scheduling shift work offers a number of benefits, such as round-the-clock customer service and increased production. It also produces some unique complications. Shift workers are more prone to having sleep deprivation, work/life balance issues, lack of access to company training, and other things that make work frustrating. So how can you better manage your night and shift workers? Here are a few tips to create a safer and more engaged workforce – beyond nine-to-five.

Listen to your employees. First and foremost, you need to take into account the needs of your shift workers to ensure they are all safe, productive and engaged members of your workforce. Create a system for encouraging regular feedback to make sure shift workers can voice their ideas and concerns.

Offer options. There are many scheduling options for you can select from. You can vary shift length and offer short shifts each day or long shifts over fewer days. Many employers opt for an on/off work pattern to give employees long stretches away from work. Using fixed or rotating schedule formats is another option. Carefully consider the needs of your company as well as your workers when creating shift policies. Remember, if what you are currently doing isn't working, consider changing to a new shift pattern. But don't change too often – consistency and work/life balance are already difficult issues shift workers face. Make sure your efforts help employees lead balanced lives, not more hectic ones.

Make it safe coming and going. Provide on-site security for all shift changes, and train employees on how to properly enter and exit the building at odd hours. Workers on night shifts are often concerned about off-hour and nighttime safety and security issues.

Don't forget meals. According to the Society of Human Resource Management, shift workers have two to three times the digestive problems of workers on a regular schedule. But most eateries aren't open during the middle of a night shift. Provide access to snacks and meals for night shift workers – whether through catering food, having snack trays available or having a refrigerator and microwave for employees to keep and heat their own meals on the job site.

Educate on healthy sleep patterns. Shift workers often have odd schedules, so many don't get the recommended hours of sleep per day. Educate your shift workers on the importance of getting enough rest. Also, be on the lookout for signs of sleep deprivation to ensure a safe workforce.

Let them have a life. Many shift workers have difficulties feeling like they have a social life because they have odd or inconsistent work schedules. Likewise, many experience frustrations if they don't get weekends or holidays off. Create policies that level the playing field for holidays off to keep from favoring some workers over others. In order to have an engaged workforce, use a flexible approach with shift workers and accommodate their special needs for time off.

Keep them in the loop.
One thing many employers don't think about for workers with odd schedules is that they are often out of the loop on company policies, meetings and training opportunities. Establish regular communication with shift workers, such as a weekly newsletter. Make sure companywide meetings are accessible to all shift workers, even if you have to have the same meeting twice.

Give them an advocate.
Shift supervisors are a vital key to properly managing shift workers, but they often get tied up in the daily issues of production, safety and spur-of-the-moment issues, and employees can't go to them for all their workplace needs. Many shift workers experience frustrations when they can't update paperwork or talk with HR or upper management when needed. That's why it's important to offer a manager or HR representative on-call at all times or available during set hours for all shifts

As workplaces continue to adopt around-the-clock work policies, it's important to address the issues of managing shift workers. Using these tips can help you create an engaged and productive workforce around the clock.

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