Have you ever woken up and been unsure of if it’s 6 am or 6 pm? Unsure of if you missed a meeting or if you just slept through an entire day? While this happens to all of us at some point, for those that work graveyard or a later shift, this can be a daily occurrence. I worked graveyards while completing school and while it seemed to work at the time, looking back I am curious how I functioned on such a small amount of sleep.
But it isn’t only the sleep that is impacted during shift work. Of course, you can find article after article citing how the disrupted sleep patterns can wreak havoc on multiple systems in our body but there is more. The impact of shift work is so much more, some of which you can get back after going back to day shift and some of which seems to stay with you forever. The two biggest impacts that I noticed were on social life and shift workers placement in the company.
- The majority of out of office “workplace gatherings” take place between the hours of 6 pm and 10 pm. This is either the time that someone with a flipped schedule is sleeping to prepare for their night at work or spending time with their family during the few hours they have at home together.
- Friends that do not work for companies that operate outside of the 9 to 5 do not understand it. No amount of explaining or answering questions will change this. Full stop.
- On days off, shift workers are expected to flip their schedule to socialize. In order to do this, it means that a full sleep cycle is being sacrificed either at the end of previous work week or beginning of next work week.
- Graveyard crews are sometimes referred to as “skeleton crews” due to the minimal manpower. Human resources, upper management, accounting, and many other departments are not on property in the middle of the night. This means that graveyard workers tend to have quite a wide range of skills.
- Graveyard crews are there at the end of a 24/hr work day, meaning they may be who catches mistakes or sees what isn’t being done effectively by other shifts.
- Graveyard crews are rarely present at companywide meetings, due to their schedule. This means that graveyard crews voices run the risk of being overlooked, even if they have valuable information.
So, what would I advise, having worked graves and studied shift work? That upper management always consults with graveyard. Nurses, police, correctional officers, casino workers, big box employees, IT, the list goes on and on. There is company knowledge, thoughts, and opinions on the shift --- please do not overlook it.
If your company is struggling with connecting shifts and looking for guidance, please reach out to us. We have experience in shift work, teams, and workplace conflict and would love to help.