Workforce.com

Learn To Recognize These 7 Qualities of Highly Effective Shiftworkers

July 1, 1997
Most 24-hour companies put remarkably little effort into trying to hire employees who can successfully adapt to shiftwork. As a result, individuals often accept a job offer and complete a training period—and then quit or request a transfer to the day shift several weeks later. HR professionals, however, don’t have to accept high turnover. They can develop an eye for recognizing the qualities of highly effective shiftworkers.

Effective shiftworkers make a commitment to the shiftwork lifestyle. Instead of considering shiftwork an inconvenient aspect of their jobs, people who have made a commitment to the shiftwork lifestyle accept it as a necessary part of their lives and develop successful coping strategies.

Effective shiftworkers tend to exercise. The benefits of exercise are tailor-made for shiftworkers: reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, increased stamina and improved sleep.

Effective shiftworkers are often "night owl types." Individuals with evening profiles love to sleep into the late morning and have no trouble staying awake and alert past 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. Their periods of high alertness and sleepiness are about two hours later than those with standard circadian profiles.

Effective shiftworkers can fall asleep easily at different times of the day. During interviews, ask candidates with shiftwork experience whether they’ve had trouble sleeping in the daytime. For people with no shiftwork experience, ask about their ability to nap in the daytime and to sleep when their schedules suddenly changed.

Effective shiftworkers don’t have inflexible obligations outside work. Hobbies that aren’t tied to precise times of the day are ideal for shiftworkers. For example, athletic shiftworkers can arrange to jog or play tennis with friends at varying times, but would be frustrated if they signed up for a softball league and had to miss every other game.

Effective shiftworkers have a support network. Shiftworkers whose families—children included—respect their need for daytime sleep and recognize that they can’t always attend important events fare well in the long run.

Effective shiftworkers tend to have a somewhat relaxed attitude. Because shiftworkers’ schedules are constantly changing, extremely rigid people are likely to have trouble adapting. Other related traits for successful adaptation include an attitude of internal control and a willingness to seek out resources for coping.

SOURCE: ShiftWork Alert, a publication of Circadian Technologies Inc. in Cambridge, Massachusetts

Workforce, July 1997, Vol. 76, No. 7, p. 32.