The impact and benefits of shift work to employers and employees
Shift working is increasing in the UK, and more workplaces are identifying productivity advantages of employees working a variety of schedules.
If you don't plan an organised approach to managing shift work, it can have a negative effect both financially and morally on staff. The consequences can include
Do not underestimate the risks of both physical and mental fatigue on workers.
Research by The Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH) found that individuals actions (performance and alertness) are lower at night than during the day, and lower on 12 hour shifts than eight-hour ones due to the acute effects on mood and performance from workload and job demands.
It is recognised that work accidents are more frequent
Shift workers are at higher risk of falling asleep while driving. This could be during work time or on their journey home after a shift. Fatigue has been identified as a possible contributory factor in up to 20% of road collisions.
Although all workers can be affected by working shift patterns, some may be more vulnerable than others, these include
Night shift workers may be prone to disturbed and irregular sleep, which can lead to 'sleep debt' and fatigue. Sleep is often lighter, shorter and more easily disturbed because of daytime noise and a natural reluctance to sleep during daylight. This interferes with hormone balance and upsets the body clock. An individual's characteristics will affect the impact of sleep debt, such as
Shift workers are at increased risk of a variety of physical and mental health problems, as well as social issues. The physical aspects can include
Workers' mental health can also be affected by
Shift workers can also miss out on important family and social events due to their work schedules. This may lead to social isolation.
Travel to and from work is often overlooked when arranging shift patterns. Individuals can be put at increased physical and economic risk by having to commute at antisocial times. Things to watch out for include
For information on workplace health, safety and wellbeing, contact your local health board team