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How wellbeing is impacted by unsociable working hours

Research shows night shift workers are almost 33% more likely to have depression than those working a standard nine to five1.

As winter approaches, many employees working long or late shifts will be carrying out most of their day-to-day tasks in complete darkness.  With barely any natural light to motivate their brains and bodies, working during these hours can easily take its toll. In fact, research shows night shift workers are almost 33% more likely to have depression than those working a standard nine to five1.

To help employers support workers such as HGV drivers with longer or night shift patterns, here are five tips for improving employee wellbeing when working unsociable hours.

1. Build regular rest breaks into schedules
“When dealing with long shifts, appropriate and realistic job sheets and scheduling are even more important than with regular shift patterns. Regardless of being on a night-shift sleep pattern, our bodies aren’t made to be awake in the dark and will continue to struggle against its natural sleep cycle, making it vital for night-shift employees to have regular breaks built into their schedules.

“Managers and team leaders should ensure these are built into employee’s schedules while also considering potential traffic conditions or other causes for delays on the road. This will help to avoid employees rushing to the next job over taking a needed break.”

2. Champion healthy living habits
“A healthy mind starts with a healthy body, which is why encouraging healthy living habits, particularly to those employees working long hours on the road or through the night, is imperative for warding off those winter blues.

“A great way to encourage these behaviours is to start an online hub where you can distribute useful information on how to manage sleeping and eating habits, how to cope with stress using techniques such as meditation, and what kind of stretches might help increase mobility and reduce tension during the work day.

“Providing healthy recipes should also be a big priority, as well as making fruit and other healthy snacks readily available to workers where possible. In addition, workplace challenges or initiatives are another useful option, as holding each other accountable for sticking to healthy habits often leads to an increase in motivation.”

3. Offer wellbeing services
“Providing workers with immediate access to places where they can receive professional help is imperative to making sure employees are healthy and happy. In addition to this, creating spaces where workers feel safe to share any challenges that they’ve been facing is a great way to help those who are struggling feel less alone.

“This is even more imperative in the trades, as studies show those in the trade industry feel uncomfortable talking about their feelings2. This could be achieved by creating support groups specifically available to employees or simply by fostering relationships between workers, their peers and their managers to create an environment that is free of judgement or hostility.

“One example of an initiative that has been extremely helpful in creating a safe space for men in particular is Andy’s Man Club, a men’s suicide prevention charity that offers free peer-to-peer support groups across the UK.”

4. Be organised, in order to prevent burnout
“With data showing over 13.7 million work days have been lost due to stress and anxiety related issues amongst workers², employers need to be doing all they can to ensure employees don’t burnout.

“A great way to reduce the risk of burnout is to ensure your team is as organised as they possibly can be, without the burden of tasks which can be automated or streamlined for efficiency.

“For example, cutting out paperwork by utilising an online job management system means that jobs are completed easier and quicker, while also improving the chance of the job being completed correctly the first time.”

5. Provide mental health awareness training
“Finally, even though discussions surrounding mental health have become much more open in recent years, the subject can still be quite taboo for a lot of people, particularly for men⁴. This is why it’s really important to provide training and resources that educate workers about mental health and give them the knowledge to help others who may be struggling.

“Whether you’re looking for an online awareness course, or an in-person workshop, there are lots of options available. Popular options that offer in-person training for a fee include Mind and MHFA, but if you’re looking for a free online course that has been accredited, give Metal Health Courses a try.”

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