If you’re someone who finds themselves working increasingly long hours, be it graveyard shifts into the early morning, or shifts that begin in the early morning, simply being at top performance is a struggle all on its own. Not only is it important to manage your energy wisely to maintain productivity if you’re going to be on 12 hour shifts or longer, but crucial to your safety in the workplace. This is doubly true if you are in a tough job that has a lot of heavy equipment or dangerous conditions, where having your wits about you at all times can save you from injury. Here we’re going to list some of the best tips we have for people who work long hours, to stay safe and make the most of their work-shift. (akumalmonkeysanctuary.com)
- Manage your sleep schedule
It almost goes without saying that having a regular and well-disciplined sleep schedule is of utmost importance to being able to work very long shifts well. There are definitely some people out there who can work a full day or night without a hitch, but many of us can experience sleep deprivation and fatigue after long exhaustive hours of work, especially if your work shift is during the night. This is because your night shifts will have you battling against your natural sleep pattern, and requires you to be alert when your body is used to sleeping. If you know you have a long day of work ahead, be it night shift or day-time, success depends on you getting between 7 to 9 hours of full sleep to function at your best.
2. Maintain your diet
Oddly enough, when you’re stressing yourself with long hours fairly consistently, not only will your sleep need to be kept in check, but also your dietary needs. Since your daily rhythm is off, given that work will have you up and active for longer than normal, so too will your metabolism. Metabolic syndrome is a serious issue for long-shift workers, as they are at an increased risk to become overweight due to poor diet and body-clock disruption. Because of this, planning your meals ahead and having a consistent eating pattern will not only help you stay alert on the job, but provide you with relief.
3. Everything in moderation
For a lot of people, the quick and dirty solution to maintaining a certain energy level doesn’t come from just adequate sleep and nutrition, but caffeine. Your daily dose of caffeine can definitely help you remain alert throughout a tiresome shift, when used properly. If you overdo it though, you are more prone to experience muscle shakes or an upset stomach. We recommend that instead of having a big dose of coffee to start your shift, for example, you should instead have smaller, more precise doses throughout the shift. Caffeine takes roughly twenty-minutes to kick in, so time it wisely as well.
4. Get the right gear
Perhaps understated, but definitely one of the most crucial aspects on this list, is being well-equipped for the task at hand. If you’re in a laborious field that requires you to be in constant motion, you need to be wearing the right shoes. Your feet and lower back will be taking the brunt of the burden when you spend 12 or more hours on your feet at a time, so treating them properly will not only avoid excessive pain, but keep you more efficient. The easiest and simplest solution is, of course, getting yourself a pair of cushioned work shoes. If you’re strapped for cash, you can always buy work-specific orthotic insoles over the counter. By getting supportive shoes that help provide key areas of your foot with muscle relief and comfort, you’ll be able to stay on your feet for longer without feeling any sting of fatigue or pain over time. Truly one of the most important pieces of advice here, that cannot be stressed enough.
5. Use light exposure to your advantage
Finally, and probably something we mostly understand intuitively yet may not practice deliberately, is controlling our exposure to light. Light cues specific chemical reactions and events to trigger, as our circadian pacemaker dictates our sleep and wake cycles based on our environment. To give you an example, when morning light comes, melatonin levels are suppressed and our cortisol levels are elevated to make us feel more awake and lively. The reverse is true when things get dark, and melatonin is raised to make us feel more drowsy. If you’re feeling sleepy or drowsy, try to trick your body into a more alert state by increasing your exposure to light.
We hope our 5 big tips on staying safe, alert, and responsible during long hour work shifts will do you some good and keep you on your feet for longer. If you adhere to some, or all of these tips, especially if you’re lacking one in some way, you should see an immediate and drastic improvement to your work ethic and comfortability in long hour work shifts.
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