How to Build a Meaningful Relationship With Your Shift-Working Team
Managers of shift workers have a unique set of circumstances that traditional 9 to 5 managers do not have to deal with. Many industries rely heavily on shift work to maintain around-the-clock schedules in order to optimize output and boost productivity. More than 17% of Americans work on a shift or have an irregular schedule.
Introducing shift work into an environment or household that has traditionally been a 9 to 5 setup can be problematic. Families are usually disrupted, and the turnover rate is high since the original terms of employment with the workers in now abrogated by the new arrangements. Problems arise as managers must cope with how their worker adapts to the new hours that they work.
Why Do People Work These Schedules?
For many, they prefer to work on schedules that will allow them to better care for their families or deal with childcare. It is a personal preference that they make that fits their schedules. For some, there is little choice in the matter since they are forced by economic circumstances to work under these conditions.
Many of the workers who are on a modified work schedule can suffer from sleep issues and there are additional problems that the manager must deal with such as their physical and mental health as well as performance and safety issues.
Nearly a quarter of all workers have shifts that are not during the daytime and more than two-thirds of them report debilitating health effects because of a lack of sleep as well as having poor eating habits from not being able to have the time to eat healthy meals.
It is important to monitor workers who appear to be fatigued and to discuss with them what can be done to improve the quality of their sleep time when not working.
What Can a Manager Do?
Creating a sense of camaraderie is not the easiest thing to do when a manager is dealing with shift workers. How is a manager supposed to create esprit de corps or a feeling of loyalty to the company to a group of people that feel like the second string on a football team and not part of the main body of the organization that goes home at 5 pm?
It is very important for the manager to make each person under him feel as if they are an integral part of the team and not just a replaceable clone worker. Each staffer should be praised for their work and made to feel appreciated.
At review time, the manager should be able to point out to each worker how he or she have contributed to the overall growth of the business of the company and shown how they are part of a working organization.
Dealing with Morale
Morale among workers is the key to retaining employees. There is a larger turnover of staff among shift workers as many of them tend to drift between jobs as their schedules and life priorities change. A worker may be, for example, less inclined to work a midnight to 8 am shift after they get married and want to spend more quality time with their family.
It is important to identify which workers are detrimental to the general morale during each shift and to deal with them on a one-on-one basis in order to determine if their behavior can be corrected before it spreads to the rest of the employees.
If need be, the problem employee needs to be discharged with all due course and the good workers need to be rewarded with as many incentives as is feasible within the working budget of the company. These incentives can range from in-house picnics to cash rewards for increased productivity and going beyond the call of duty during the workday.
There are certain key employees who are influential among every shift but are not on the level of a manager. These employees need to be consulted with on a regular basis in order to determine the general mood of the shift and to find out if there are problem workers who may be suffering from fatigue, drug, or alcohol abuse.
Managing shift workers requires the supervisor to monitor his charges closely to assess their mental and physical health, to provide them with an incentive to continue working to the standards of the regular hour shifts, and to identify and deal with problem workers before they can damage the morale of the entire shift.