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With less and less employees working the traditional 9-5 working day in the UK, employers are now having to adapt their wellbeing strategies to cater to the needs of their shift workers.
Shift workers such as police officers, firefighters, nurses, doctors, pilots, retail staff, builders, lorry drivers, and many other professionals, will have several aspects of their lives affected by working shifts and long hours. These include:
Shift working can be a stressor for certain individuals and can lead towards developing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. This can be due to the disruptions caused to the circadian system (which regulates the release of different chemicals in the body) and the many social unbalances that shift work can cause.
Shift work has been linked to various chronic diseases and illnesses such as heart disease, ulcers, gastrointestinal problems and obesity. This can be due to irregular eating habits, poor diet and lack of exercise - all of which are all too common with shift workers.
A combination of disrupted sleeping patterns and fatigue from working long hours can lead to an increase in workplace accidents and a decrease in productivity, particularly for those working in the early hours of the morning.
Employees who engage in shift work or who work long hours can experience considerable disruption to family and social activities. For example, Saturday and Sunday work can often coincide with sporting events, family outings and religious activities. Consequently, shift work can then cause negative effects on an employee’s mental health due to them missing out on these events.
Family and marital responsibilities can be disrupted by shift work as well. Childcare, housework, shopping and leaving a partner alone at night can all cause a strain on personal lives.
To keep shift workers safe, healthy and productive, employers have a responsibility to support their employees' health and wellbeing. Below we have listed several suggestions on how to support the wellbeing of your shift workers:
Due to the various health issues associated with shift working, shift workers, particularly night workers, are more susceptible to infections due to the likelihood of a low or weakened immune system. Avoid the risk of illnesses spreading by enforcing workplace cleanliness rules, for example, create and distribute a cleaning rota for communal areas such as the kitchen.
Often, shift workers will choose convenience over health when eating at work. To help boost the physical and mental wellbeing of your shift workers, provide healthier alternatives such as fruit and low fat yoghurts to the usual vending machine offerings.
Ensure that you arrange regular catch up sessions with your shift workers to ensure that they are happy and satisfied with their work life. Acknowledge that stress can often occur in the workplace and that you have support processes in place if needed.
Hopefully this guidance has shed some light on the wellbeing effects that shift work can bring to a workforce, as well as the methods in which you can help your shift workers thrive in the workplace.
If you would like to find out more information on any of the topics mentioned in this article, please contact Health Assured on:
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