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Running a Three-Shift Operation: Wellness for Each Shift

November 1, 2021
June 21, 2023
guy sitting at his computer at night

There are several different businesses and industries that, due to their nature, must operate 24 hours a day. From convenience stores and gas stations, to fast food restaurants in busy inner cities, to large retail chain stores like Walmart, to industries that have to deal with increasing quotas for output, running an “around-the-clock” business can certainly be stressful.

If your business hires people around the clock there are certain elements that need to be taken into consideration to protect the health and wellness of your different workers. In this short article, we will take a look at some of the effects of shift work on mental health, including how shift work can contribute to sleep disorders

We’ll also offer some shift work health effects and solutions that can help you design the best business model that protects the wellness of all of your workers.

The Negative Health Effects of Working the Graveyard Shift

There are almost 15 million Americans who either work a permanent night shift or regularly rotate in and out of night shifts, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For some people, working the “graveyard” shift from 9 pm until 5 am might sound like a bad idea.

You´ll probably have fewer employees to share your workspace with you or clients to attend to, and other than sleep, your days will be free. However, there are some serious negative health effects that come with working the night shift over an extended period of time, including: 

  • The disruption of your body's circadian rhythms.
    The circadian rhythm acts as an internal clock that lets various glands in your body know when to release hormones. It also helps to control your mood, alertness, body temperature and other aspects of the body’s daily cycle.

    According to the American Psychological Association (APA): “...our bodies and brains evolved to relax and cool down after dark and to spring back into action come morning. People who work the night shift must combat their bodies’ natural rest period while trying to remain alert and high functioning. It doesn’t matter whether they get enough sleep during the daytime. All the sleep in the world won’t make up for circadian misalignment.”

  • Decreased longevity.
    One 22 year study
    actually found that women who worked on rotating night shifts for more than five years were up to 11 percent more likely to have died early compared to those who never worked these shifts.

  • Increases risk of workplace accidents.
    Working the third shift also goes against your body´s natural inclination to relax and “shut down” at night. Though workers can force themselves to stay alert, there will inevitably be a reduction in focus, attention, productivity, and fine motor skills. This can increase the risk of injury dramatically.

  • Other effects.
    Though further studies are needed, there is some evidence that regularly working the night shift can also lead to an increased risk of heart problems, diabetes, obesity, and depression and other mental health issues. 

How to Protect Your Shift Workers?

Given the potentially serious problems that come with working the third shift, might there be ways to protect your workers who work the graveyard shift? Fortunately, there is mounting evidence that certain policy changes can protect the health and wellness of workers who must work the night shift.

Among the best ways to best protect your workers, business owners and HR managers can: 

  • Transition slowly: Give your employees time to adapt their circadian rhythms to the night shift. This might mean only scheduling one night a week of night shift work to begin.

  • Never allow overtime work for night shift workers: Whether you have an 8-hour or 12-hour shift cycle, night time workers should not be scheduled for longer hours.

  • Properly rotate shift work: If you rotate your workers through night shifts, for most people, rotating forward through day, afternoon and night shift is better than backwards (night, afternoon then day).

Create Three-Shift Wellness With Work-Fit

Lastly, you may also offer training and wellness sessions for third shift workers. These sessions can focus on how to get the sleep they need during the daytime hours, which can be a challenge. Work-Fit is one leading company that offers onsite injury prevention, management, and employee wellness for your workforce. We are the nationwide leader in applying sports medicine techniques in the workplace to prevent injuries and increase your company's bottom line.

Our team of medical professionals can help your company design and implement the most effective wellness management program to best protect the health and wellbeing of your third shift workers. Contact us today to learn about how we can help your team!


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