It’s not news that fatigued workers perform less well and are less safe on the job. However, according to the Monitor on Psychology (January 2011), it is more difficult than we think to adjust to shift work or lack of sleep.
This is a pertinent issue. With the demands of the modern workplace, more and more workers play hard after work and sleep less. The lack of sleep not only results in eye bags and wrinkles, but makes the body less effective at reducing toxins and more susceptible to illness and disease. This is true for all regular day workers. For night workers, the dangers are multiplied because they are forcing their body’s circadian rhythm to change. It’s possible to have the circadian rhythm gradually adjust and realign, but for many shift workers, their hours are irregular.
For example, many hotel staff will work overnight one day and then work a day shift the next. The body never has time to realign its rhythm.
Human Resources staff need to take this issue seriously when planning and training because it can lead to safety issues in addition to increased absenteeism, poor moods at work and lower overall performance. There are no permanently effective solutions to this issue, but the following research backed advice may assist:
1. Try to have staff work regular night shifts and educate them as to the importance of trying to keep their circadian rhythms in their adjusted state. They can do this by spending their day off on the same time episodes as their night shift days. This however may not be sellable to the employee who perhaps wants to spend time with friends or go out shopping.
2. For non-shift staff, ensure they understand the effects of not sleeping enough. It impacts on everybody at work due to mood, motivation and performance deficits. Try to make their work more interesting and fun so that they look forward to it each night and thus don’t feel they need to use up every minute of spare time having fun rather than sleeping.
Written and Published by PsyAsia International’s Psychometric Tests and HRM News Team