March 13, 2023

10 Tips for Managing Shift Workers


Making changes to a work schedule isn’t easy. When managing a shift-based workforce, it is essential to remain organized and flexible. Ensuring that all shifts are appropriately assigned and communicated to the staff is paramount to a successful schedule.

It’s also important to keep in mind that the impact of shift work on employees is immediate and significant, as work hours shape not just their job roles but their lives outside of work as well. Whether your organization is new to shift planning or you’re thinking about changing from one type of shift schedule to another, we recommend initially making the change temporary to allow time for evaluation. It’s important to ensure benefits from the changes outweigh any negatives. If successful, the new schedule can then be permanently established.

Still, even with the best-planned schedules, managing shift employees requires extra due diligence on the part of the employer. So, we’ve compiled ten recommendations to keep your workers happy, healthy, and engaged.

1) Empower Your Shift Workers

It’s essential to let employees have a say and some control over their schedules. Much like installing solar panels on the roof of your house – it’s an investment that will pay off in the long run.

Flex scheduling through TCP’s Humanity App allows staff to fill open shifts and swap shifts without the need for additional work on the part of the scheduler or manager. Automated rules ensure only qualified employees can take the available shift. You can also implement policies that limit the number of extra hours or consecutive shifts an employee can work.

And all this can be done without the employees having to exchange phone numbers or contact the manager, granting them a sense of control over their schedules which could result in improved job satisfaction.

2) Reduce Shift Worker Fatigue

Fatigue significantly impacts a shift worker’s well-being and has been linked to numerous health problems. Therefore, fatigue management systems are essential to a safe and productive workplace. These systems are designed to establish guidelines for mitigating employee fatigue while allowing flexibility in a highly competitive business environment. Examples include rest and break schedules, policies regarding extended hours or multiple-shift work, appropriate meal breaks, pre-shift screening assessment tools, and organizational training to ensure constant vigilance in monitoring fatigue levels.

By fostering an understanding of how fatigue can affect an individual’s performance and well-being, these systems can help maintain a healthier working culture. Additionally, employers may provide access to online resource materials on healthy sleeping habits, which can help employees stay informed on strategies for managing their fatigue levels.

3) Vary Shift Workers’ Schedules

In addition to causing sleep problems, permanent night shifts can make workers feel isolated and disconnected from management and colleagues. To mitigate this, rotating night shift schedules should be considered while taking steps to reduce the workload issues they often create.

If creating 24/7 shift schedules is a challenge for your organization, Humanity offers a 24/7 shift schedule template that’s easy to set up and set to recur for up to 12 months.

4) Schedule Shift Work for Peak Performance

Schedule heavy or dangerous work for peak performance times in the afternoon or early evening. To prevent fatigue-induced accidents, avoid assigning this type of work during the night or early morning when circadian rhythms are lowest, and sleepiness is highest. You want to especially avoid these tasks when workers are nearing the end of a 12-hour shift, as extra fatigue can increase accident risk.

5) Comply with Hazardous Materials Standards

Pay extra attention to shift workers who interact with hazardous materials. It is the employer’s responsibility to take appropriate steps to ensure employees are not exposed to dangerous materials in excess of health standards. If employees work long shifts, their prolonged exposure to contaminants may exceed standards, so employers should implement measures to limit and monitor exposure. This could include limiting the time an employee works with these materials and providing clean rest areas or including duties that remove them from exposure for a time.

6) Create a Healthy Atmosphere

Adequate lighting, clean air, proper heat and air conditioning and reduced noise help shift workers stay alert. In addition, access to hot and nutritious meals during evening and night shifts is essential. If there’s no cafeteria available, a microwave should be provided so they can warm meals bought from vending machines or brought from home.

7) Provide Access to Health Services

Shift workers cannot always access health clinics and counseling services in the evenings or at night. Expanded access to these services is essential to improve their physical and mental health and boost morale. A directory of community health and counseling facilities with extended hours should be provided if those services are unavailable within the organization.

8) Raise Awareness

Just as it is essential to ensure managers understand the effects of shift work, so too is it necessary for the shift workers themselves. Holding shift work awareness meetings can be beneficial, especially for new shift workers. Inviting their family members is crucial, so they know what to expect. Additionally, having seasoned workers give an account of their experiences is invaluable. Finally, ensure workers know they’re not alone if they are struggling with adapting to shift work – tips from other employees might help them cope better!

9) Provide a Social Outlet for Shift Workers

Put in extra effort to arrange social gatherings, hobby clubs, or sports and recreational activities to reduce feelings of loneliness. These shouldn’t be perks that only day workers can participate in. For instance, some areas offer bowling leagues at night or early morning. You can also find venues, such as indoor water parks and laser tag venues, for family fun. And remember, company picnics are not only daytime activities. Why not give employees the option of attending a day of outdoor games under the sun or outdoor movies under the stars?

10) Incorporate Micro-Breaks

In addition to formal breaks such as lunch or dinner, incorporate regular and frequent breaks throughout the work shift. Encourage employees to use these micro-breaks to change positions, stretch, and move about. Studies have shown that frequent short breaks improve concentration.

We hope these ten tips help your organization keep your employees happy, healthy, and engaged. And always remember, the best thing you can do for your organization and your employees is to keep the lines of communication open.