Carolyn Schlur, Sleep educator, shows she knows a thing or two about dealing with shiftwork and insomnia
Canadian Association of Professional Speakers
(especially flus, colds, and allergies) are usually the first outcomes. However, long-term sleep loss also can result in higher risks of:
- Autoimmune diseases
- Cardiovascular disease
- Gastrointestinal conditions
disability and accommodation laws. “Employers in Europe and Canada will allow work schedule accommodation for an employee who struggles with shiftwork just like you might expect an accommodation for someone with a physical disability. While US employers are not subject to the same laws, they pay for the consequences of unhealthy shiftwork practices in their healthcare costs.” She acknowledges you can’t generalize about shiftwork management practices across all 50 states. “But for many years the trend has been toward longer schedules/rotations. This grew out of research that found people do better when they stay on a shift for longer periods because the body adapts to it. If you work 6 or 7 shifts in a row, however, your body gets used to that schedule and then you go off that shift and force it to start the change all over again. This constant changing causes the most stress and fatigue to the body. European research demonstrates that, except for employees working 14 or more consecutive shifts, short rotations are preferable. This model works better because the goal is to not adapt to alternate shifts, especially night work, at all. You want to get through it and over it so you can stay on your daytime circadian rhythm.” Like any rule, Carolyn admits there can be exceptions. “I’m always asked ‘What is the best schedule?’ The answer depends on what industry you are in, what the work flow is, customer needs, type of work, etc. We tend to think of shiftwork generically, but every workplace is different. For example, nurses may work in the same hospital, but the kind of work they do depends on the unit they are on. Firefighters
- Minimize overtime; but be prepared for resistance from employees who want the overtime pay, despite the inherent lifestyle and health risks.
- Flexible scheduling is highly valued by employees… especially millennials and parents… and doesn’t cost the employer anything.
- If possible, project the schedule at least 3 months in advance and allow for shift trading. This gives employees a valuable sense of control over their lives.