10 Tips if You Schedule Overnight Staff

November 24, 2021 | 406 views

10 Tips if You Schedule Overnight Staff
10 Tips if You Schedule Overnight Staff

Overnight staffing has unique challenges, logistically and physically. While the rare night owl prefers night time shifts, most employees are affected by fatigue. Fatigue causes safety issues that can create serious problems. And then, if employees rotate between day and night shifts, it spreads out the difficulty, but the change of times is problematic, too.

Shift changes of a few hours are well tolerated by most, however, so reducing the jolt of shift changes is helpful. If you run a 24-hour operation in health care, security, or public safety, it is important to schedule appropriately to reduce risk and improve employee welfare.

As the employer, implement measures to keep your business and employees healthy.

  1. Get a grip on your needs. 24/7 businesses must hire based on availability in addition to other skills. It does no good to have a small percentage of employees able to cover night shifts. Expand your workforce as needed to ensure coverage and improve your options.
  2. Minimize schedule changes. Employers must be as consistent as possible with scheduling. Using scheduling software will help ensure that meal times, breaks, and start times establish continuity for employees.
  3. Schedule weeks in advance. You probably know when you need coverage, and most states require that employees receive schedules with reasonable notice, often at least two weeks in advance. For overnight shifts, getting a head start is especially important. It gives employees time to prepare for night shifts and allows time for changes if needed. The more advanced notice you provide, the better for everyone concerned.
  4. Simplify shift trading. Your scheduling software allows you to empower employees to trade schedules. It is always tougher to cover an absentee employee in an organization that never shuts down. Make your job easier with cooperative and interactive employees who can manage their shifts with intelligent software.
  5. Cross-train. The more skilled your employees, the more choices you have when scheduling (or quickly filling in) an overnight shift. Improve your employees’ ability to cover any shift and increase their value at the same time.
  6. Encourage employees to adjust. You can’t control everything an employee does, especially when they are not on the clock. However, you can encourage them to make things easier by preparing for night shifts. They can nap before the shift and adjust their bedtimes and wake-up times to transition their days to meet a new schedule gradually.
  7. Lighten up. Literally. Bright light increases wakefulness, so add white and blue lights to employee work and break areas to decrease sleepiness.
  8. Nix the caffeine if possible. Caffeine does help keep employees alert, but it interferes with sleep, too. A short nap improves alertness more than a cup of joe. Provide a comfortable place for night shift employees to get 40 winks.
  9. Encourage recovery. Sleep is only part of staying alert and productive. Encourage exercise to overcome shift fatigue. Maybe the break room could be a spot for short bouts of exercise.
  10. Eat well. Just as coffee can exacerbate fatigue, some foods do, too. Healthier foods with lower sugar levels (including fewer chips and crackers) improve the body’s energy. Maybe it’s time for a decent vending machine or an employee fridge to house fresh foods.

Scheduling overnight employees responsibly is a combination of management efforts and employee cooperation. Appropriate planning is the start of any shift schedule, but good communication and encouraging healthy ways to cover overnight shifts are part of being a responsible manager, too.

Author Profile Jon Forknell is the Vice President and General Manager of Atlas Business Solutions, Inc., a software marketing company specializing in employee scheduling software, including ScheduleBase employee scheduling software, and other business software solutions. In the past, Jon has been recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as a SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year. For many years, Atlas Business Solutions has been named one of Software Magazine’s Top 500 Software Companies.

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