How to Help Employees Cope with Shift Work


If you run a small business that requires employees to work shifts, it is important to understand how the changing hours can affect a person’s ability to work. Here are some coping mechanisms for employees and ways you can help them adjust.
  • Working nights when your body is wired to sleep at that time can be a struggle – you are automatically tired and want to go to bed. Every person should aim for 7-8 hours’ sleep between shifts. Missing just two hours of sleep can create sleep deprivation. Managing sleep is crucial in minimising the chance of fatigue-related accidents.
  • If your employee’s shifts are always changing, encourage them to do the following things:
    • Spend time in daylight before or after their shift. Low vitamin D levels can be harmful to their health, resulting in more time off due to illness.
    • Don’t eat heavy meals at night. Preferably have something light that will be easier to digest, allowing employees to fall asleep easier when they arrive home.
    • If an employee is about to start their first night shift, they should take a nap in the afternoon to prime themselves for the coming night.
  • Have clear policies and procedures outlining the requirements of shift work. This should include relevant information on how to manage workload and changing rotations, as well as a clear fatigue management policy explaining the risks of lack of sleep.
  • Check the relevant provision for shift work in awards to ensure your employees are protected and operating in a safe manor.

Try to be as accommodating as possible for your employees. If a person is new to working shifts, particularly night shifts, they may take a while to adjust. Do whatever you can to help make this transition as smooth as possible, and support them through the process. Shift work isn’t for everyone, but if you can nurture a team of reliable, skilled and committed workers, your business will thrive.

For more information on how to help employees cope with shift work, please contact us on (08) 9316 9896 or


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