8 ways to make working the night shift easier for your employees

It’s an undeniable part of life in today’s workforce: more and more of us are working irregular hours, including working the night shift. The traditional 9–5 is being rethought across a whole host of different industries, and along with these new working arrangements has come an increase in night work.

As working the night shift becomes a mainstay for more types of companies, giving flexibility to both businesses and employees, it’s important to remember that irregular hours—especially at night—can take a toll on the health and wellbeing of workers.

So the question is, how can you make working the night shift better for your employees?

We’re glad you asked. Because here at Homebase, we understand the unique challenges of a shift-based workforce. We’re here to make scheduling the night shift a whole lot simpler, giving you the best tools to support a happy, healthy and productive team.


What is the night shift?

Night shift jobs, which are also known as third shift, or graveyard shift jobs, are typically when an employee begins work around midnight. Some businesses rely on day shifts and night shifts to enable their team’s deadlines to be met, while others stay open 24 hours a day.

About 15 million Americans are working a night shift, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s about 5–10% of US workers who are on the job through the late-night hours, with some regularly working night shifts, and others rotating in and out of night shift schedules.

Many night shift employees are hourly workers. Some are taking on shift work at night to avoid the cost of childcare, and some are working an additional job or even multiple jobs during the day.

Common industries that rely on night shift workers

From restaurants, to grocery stores, to healthcare environments, to call centers, night shifts are crucial to so many industries we rely on every day. These employees rely on very specific (and sometimes tough to manage) scheduling to keep things on track.

Some of the most common jobs that rely on night shift work are:

  • Hospital and medical workers. Night shift work is central to the medical and caretaking fields. Essential overnight medical workers include nurses, doctors, medical support workers, paramedics, front desk associates, and nursing home employees.
  • Public safety workers. Keeping our neighborhoods safe is a 24/7 job. Since emergencies can occur at any time of the day or night, our police officers, firefighters, 9-1-1 operators, security guards, and corrections officers are on duty at all hours.
  • Warehouse workers. Want next-day delivery? Manufacturing industry jobs rely on night shifts to ensure smooth and efficient production. Warehouse employees who work night shifts include forklift operators, inventory and shipping clerks, supervisors, and package loaders and unloaders.
  • Transport workers. The transportation industry depends on night shift workers to safely transport travelers and packages. These essential workers include flight attendants, air traffic controllers, pilots, taxi drivers, freight drivers, dispatchers, and transit workers.
  • Cleaning workers. The cleaning workforce relies on night shift workers to clean offices, gyms, subway stations, and other busy locations that can’t be adequately serviced in the daytime alone.
  • Hospitality workers. If you’ve ever checked in late to a hotel or called the front desk for a late-night request, you’ve relied on a night shift worker. Night shift hospitality jobs include hotel clerks, cleaning crews and bartenders, as well as kitchen staff and servers in 24-hour restaurants and diners.
  • Retail and convenience store workers. Grabbing that middle-of-the-night medication wouldn’t be possible without retail stores that operate 24/7 or late into the night. Retail employees work night shifts to serve customers, fill orders, and do maintenance or inventory.
  • Customer support workers. When a company offers around-the-clock customer support across different time zones, it means they rely on a labor force of night workers. Information technology specialists and call center representatives work through the night to answer calls, respond to live chats, and provide IT support.
  • Television, film and news production crews. Your go-to newscasts and your favorite movies and streaming content wouldn’t make their way onto screens without the work of night workers. From production crew, to editors, to transcribers, to social media managers, the production industry is often required to work through the night.

Potential negative effects of working the night shift

Because of their irregular sleeping patterns, night shift workers can face specific challenges to their mental and physical health. 

Getting your sleep during the day can interfere with your body’s circadian rhythm: the internal clock that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. Circadian rhythm disruptions can cause your sleep to become fragmented or disordered, affecting your immune system and leading to potential negative side effects on the body like fatigue, impaired judgment and motor skills, and metabolic and digestive problems.

Not only can working night shifts take these potential tolls on physical health, it can also affect relationships and limit opportunities to socialize, contributing to social isolation and decreased mental health.

Unchecked, these risks to mental and physical health can lead to more employee burnout, more leave requests, and more disability claims because of increased risks of accidents or illness.

If you’ve experienced some of these challenges with your night shift team, you’re not alone. From scheduling to onboarding and beyond, Homebase has the tools to help your business look after its night workers, creating the best possible conditions for your employees.

8 ways to make night shifts better for your employees 

When you support your night-shifters from the very beginning of their employment, and continue fostering a communicative, health-conscious, positive work environment, you set up your business and your employees for success.

Here are our top 8 tips to ensure a healthy and productive night shift team:

1. Have an honest hiring process

Be transparent about night shift requirements during the interview process, and make sure you’re building your team with people who are the most suited to it. You especially want to look for people who you think are most likely to thrive.

Your hiring process should carefully consider your company culture, the members of your current team, and your business goals. Get the right applicants by using customized job descriptions and posting your job to relevant job boards. In a pinch? Promoting your job with paid boosts can help you hire someone faster.

 2. Develop an effective onboarding process to train employees

Don’t leave your new employee to fend for themselves on the night shift. Your onboarding process plays a key role in setting your new employees up for success. A successful new-hire onboarding process typically includes the following:

  • Role-specific training. You’ll want to cover the basic skills and knowledge that a new hire will need to perform their job.
  • HR and scheduling. Take the time to review company policies, like sick days and how to clock-in. You should also walk your new hire through the scheduling process.
  • Company culture and objectives. Clearly communicate the company goals and values. This can help your employee prioritize and meet these expectations during their employment.
  • Meeting the team. Having a welcoming start for a new employee not only helps them feel more comfortable, it can boost morale for your existing team as well, by having them feel involved in the process.

Consider automating your onboarding. Hiring and onboarding tend to come with a lot of paperwork and information. Save you and your new hire time by automating your welcome packet with Homebase. Send paperwork digitally ahead of time, so you can focus on welcoming your new team member on their first day.

3. Gradually transition your employees to night shifts

When managing a night shift team, your approach to scheduling is vital. Suddenly switching to night shifts can be incredibly taxing, so help your employees avoid circadian dysregulation by slowly transitioning them to their new schedule, letting them slowly adjust. Do your best to avoid making sudden or frequent schedule changes. It’s also important to protect your employees’ personal time with loved ones and protect their mental health.

An all-in-one scheduling app like Homebase lets you streamline your scheduling, easily transitioning your employees to the night shift and keeping your team on track with reminders and digital schedules.

Our robust scheduling software enables you to schedule your staff with just a few clicks, helping prevent any errors in misjudging an employee’s availability. Build, edit, and share the latest schedule with your team from anywhere, use templates and auto-scheduling based on sales forecasts, and allow your team to request time off or a change in their availability—all in one place.

4. Provide healthy break room fare and caffeine alternatives

Maintaining a healthy diet is especially important for night shift workers, who studies have shown face a higher risk for obesity, cancer and Type 2 diabetes. Night-shifters can have a harder time digesting junk food than other workers. Do your part to help safeguard your employees’ health by providing healthy snacks options.

To avoid the effects of caffeine on sleep, make sure to stock the break room with drinks other than caffeinated beverages. Offer options like herbal tea, low-sugar juice, or low-sugar flavored waters.

5. Encourage regular breaks, and consider allowing short naps

Encourage your employees to re-energize with short breaks, which will increase overall productivity and reduce stress. Fitness breaks can be especially helpful, as physical exercise has been shown to boost alertness, particularly during the night hours. If you have on-site facilities or amenities, make sure they’re accessible to your employees 24/7. 

One hot tip? Naps. It might be hard to get your head around, but allowing naps at work can be very beneficial for night shift workers.

Far from being counterproductive, a short 15–20-minute nap can leave your employees notably more alert and productive. Even better: this boost that lasts for several hours. Cat naps are the name of the game, however, if you choose to provide a napping area, make sure your employees aren’t napping for too long. Longer naps could cause them to fall into a deeper sleep.

6. Help create an anti-fatigue environment

If it’s within your power, help give your night shift workers what they need to remain focused and alert throughout their shift.

Ensure that the room noise isn’t too repetitive or low, especially in spaces with minimal human contact. Upbeat radio or music can help create an energetic environment. Since cooler air can help workers stay alert, make sure the room temperature isn’t stimulating sleepiness. Have employees who are on their feet a lot? Anti-fatigue rubber mats are a great option. And since light can dramatically affect sleep patterns—with artificial light having the same impact as sunlight—make sure that lights are adjustable, letting your employees keep the lighting vibrant enough.

If your team is made up of long-term, regularly scheduled shift workers, help them adjust to a reversed sleep-wake cycle. This is a new, permanent schedule where their days and nights are flipped. Consider installing a lighting system with higher illumination levels during the first half of the shift. Then use lower illumination levels during the second half of the shift. This will help promote alertness and help them adapt their circadian rhythm to their new schedule. Encourage the use of sunglasses on the commute home, and educate your shift workers on best practices for their quality of sleep during non-work hours.

Creating a new habit and turning it into an automatic behavior takes approximately 18–254 days, and encouraging the body to comfortably stay awake at night and sleep during the day is no exception.

7. Offer frequent mental health supports

Do your part to help your employees recognize and respond to stress. Stress awareness seminars, nominating a wellness champion, and mental and physical health checks can go a long way to ensuring employee wellbeing. Your employees may also find it therapeutic to speak to an impartial third party. Provide them with opportunities to access external health experts if needed. 

Most importantly, make sure you establish and maintain an open-door policy when it comes to stress and health concerns. Suppressing or bottling up health concerns serves no one, so create an environment that’s as supportive as possible.

8. Maintain employee engagement

All too easily, night-shifters can feel left out of essential work processes. Make sure you keep your night workers feeling connected, involved and valued, and take every step to prevent a toxic work environment. Establish strong and consistent communication that’s clear, transparent, accessible, and most importantly, understood.

Make a point of hosting intermittent team-oriented activities or free meals for night shift workers. If your budget allows, consider giving your night workers pay bumps, bonuses, or food allowances. It goes a long way to showing how much you value and appreciate them.

Lastly, remember that onboarding doesn’t end once an employee feels comfortable doing their job. Providing your night shift team members with ongoing training and feedback is a crucial part of keeping employees motivated and engaged.

Run a better team with smarter scheduling.

Optimize your schedule and keep your team in sync with Homebase. Simplify scheduling and be able to staff your night shifts with energized and happy team members. Get started with Homebase for free.

Working the night shift FAQs 

What is the night shift?

The night shift is generally understood as work that begins at midnight or in the late hours of the night. Night shift jobs are also known as third shift, or graveyard shift jobs.

What industries rely on night shift employees?

Industries that rely on night shift employees include hospital and medical workers, police officers and public safety workers, warehouse workers, transport workers, cleaning workers, hospitality workers, retail and convenience store workers, customer support workers, and film production and news crews.

Is working the night shift bad for your health?  

Working the night shift can pose a risk to employees’ physical health because of disrupted circadian rhythms. This can lead to fatigue, lapses in judgment, impaired motor skills, and metabolic and digestive problems. Night-shifters are also more at risk of social isolation and decreased mental health.

How can employers make the night shift easier for their employees?

Make the night shift easier for your employees with an honest hiring process and a solid onboarding process. Help employees avoid circadian dysregulation by slowly transitioning to the night shift. An all-in-one scheduling app like Homebase can provide a seamless and streamlined transition. Foster a health-conscious, anti-fatigue work environment. When employees feel supported and energized, it further reduces the risks to their mental and physical health.

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