Night shift: Reduce the risks

Un chauffeur conduit la nuit

Did you know? Employees who work night shift are more at risk of developing health problems. This type of schedule disturbs their biological rhythm in addition to affecting their social and family life. The resulting imbalance can have effects on their general well-being. Let’s look at some suggestions on how to support night-shift employees.

Understand their reality

Does your company employ night-shift workers? It’s not the only one in Quebec. More than one third of the workforce works between midnight and 8 a.m.! This includes pilots, healthcare workers, first responders and warehouse workers, to name a few.

To safeguard the health of those who have a non-traditional schedule, you first need to understand their reality. That way, it will be easier to help them adapt to this way of life.

Sleep and accidents

It will come as no surprise that the greatest risks facing night-shift workers are sleep problems and accidents. A person who works nights sleeps one to two hours less than day-shift workers. It’s more difficult to get a rejuvenating sleep during the day. With the light, the noise, and activities of family members, it’s not easy to have a deep sleep and maintain healthy lifestyle habits.

One of the first signs of sleep deprivation is a change in mood. Insufficient sleep affects thought processes and concentration. Sound decision making becomes more difficult. Reflexes are slower. This means employees are at risk of making mistakes. Some mistakes may not have much impact, but others can be dangerous, such as falling asleep at the wheel after a night shift or not using machinery properly.

In general, a person who is tired doesn’t perform as well at work, which can be a problem for your operations.

Long-term impacts

We must not underestimate the effects of night-shift work on employees’ health. They run the risk of suffering from anxiety, irritability and depression.

Fatigue and a non-traditional meal schedule also affect their diet. These workers are more at risk for obesity and related diseases such as diabetes 2 and heart disease. And since sleep is when the cells in our body are regenerated, the immune system has a harder time fighting off viruses. Over the long haul, chronic sleep problems are associated with an increased risk of cancer.

Now, what can you do to help your night-shift workers care for their health?

Encourage them to adapt their lifestyle

Adopting a healthy lifestyle is good advice for everyone, but especially your night-shift teams. Here are some points you’ll want to touch on to reduce the risks and help them maintain overall health.

1. A healthy diet

Eating healthy foods and establishing a regular meal schedule is important. Make sure that you offer healthy and varied food choices in the workplace such as nutritious snacks, fresh fruit and vegetables, breakfast choices later in the day, etc.

2. The effects of caffeine

Yes, sources of caffeine must be available for night-shift workers, but they shouldn’t be abused. Ideally, caffeine should not be consumed within four hours of going to bed. In addition to coffee, this stimulant is found in various foods, such as soft drinks.

3. Physical activity

Physical activity promotes synchronization of biological functions and reduces the impact of night work on physical and mental health.

Provide a work-out space with natural light to allow night-shift workers to get energized before their shift. Don’t forget to provide change rooms and showers.

4. Rest areas

Set up some spaces for relaxing and resting that are comfortable, dark and quiet. A short 30-minute nap can restore up to 90% of mental alertness. Encouraging your employees to rest during their break does not cause laziness. You’re helping them to recover their full productivity, even at work.

5. Available resources

Depending on your group insurance choices, your teams may have access to support services for maintaining their health that take into account their non-traditional schedule such as an Employees Assistance Program (EAP), telemedecine, etc. Encourage your employees to make use of them.


Your nocturnal employees have big challenges. The imbalance of their internal clocks may have consequences for them and for the company’s operations. Fortunately, there are a range of measures that can be taken to mitigate the effects of night work on their health.

Your company has a lot to gain by helping staff adapt to this unnatural rhythm. It’s to everyone’s advantage!