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Manage the Night Shift

Manage the Night Shift

Management opportunities are growing for those willing to work when most people sleep. The world economy now runs 24/7, and third- or night-shift jobs are no longer solely for the unskilled, says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"The midnight-to-8-a.m. shift is no longer relegated to just blue-collar workers," says Challenger. "With nonstop operations and an increasing number of customers and staff worldwide, companies may employ all-night human resource professionals and third-shift information technology workers. They may even have a late-shift marketing team to conduct meetings with partners on the other side of the globe."

Managers for Round-the-Clock Operations

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately 24 million Americans, half of whom are in white-collar occupations including healthcare, technology, customer service, retail and media, work outside of the 7 a.m.-to-7 p.m. shift. This number is expected to grow as more corporations and institutions operate around the clock. That means more opportunities for managers, who will be needed to lead these organizations and shifts.

Night Shift Pros and Cons

John Coffey, a job and career transition coach for Woodbury, Minnesota-based Winning Careers, spent more than 25 years as a manager in the manufacturing industry. Two things stood out from his experience on the night shift: It was tough to get good sleep, but it was one of the most pleasant times to work.

"I never slept an entire eight hours a day while working this shift," says Coffey. "Brief naps and very fretful sleep was the name of the game."

Coffey says there were many positives to managing the night shift, such as few interruptions from executives, support people, vendors and customers. He also found night-shift teams to be more cohesive than their 9-to-5 counterparts. And in terms of career development, his night job provided a good training ground, because he had to make key decisions without input from other managers or company leaders.

In addition to his own sleep deprivation, negatives included dealing with workers on different shifts, those who were sleep-deprived or workers who would come in late after oversleeping or not make it in at all.

"There are people on these shifts who love it and those who hate it," says Coffey. "For managers, they are often the only person in charge on the shift, so all decisions must be made by them. Everything from quality issues to how to deal with personnel issues fall upon the night-shift manager. Decisions are made and are the object of critique by the powers that be upon their arrival in the morning."

Morale Boosters

Janie O'Connor, president of St. Paul-based Shiftworker.com, has studied night-shift managers and says employee morale can often suffer on the night shift.

"Labels and negative names for shifts were seen as decreasing job satisfaction, which can lead to turnover," says O'Connor. During one of her training classes, one attendee said, "Consider the impact of belonging to the ‘off-shift,' ‘clean-up crew,' ‘dog watch' or ‘graveyard shift' -- it is not very affirming for self-esteem."

O'Connor says night managers also struggle with poor intershift communications, unhealthy eating habits, health issues related to sleep problems and staff members who feel they are not included as key members of the company. "More and more successful managers have become sensitive to these issues," she says.

Tips for Night Managers

O'Connor recommends these strategies for brighter nights:

  • Invite night workers to be creative.

  • Encourage shift workers to voice their opinions, even when not shared among their peers.

  • Ask that human resources personnel be on site during night-shift hours once or twice monthly to discuss issues with managers and/or employees.

  • Use the natural cohesiveness among night workers as a means to achieve production and service.

Management opportunities are growing for those willing to work when most people sleep. The world economy now runs 24/7, and third- or night-shift jobs are no longer solely for the unskilled, says John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

"The midnight-to-8-a.m. shift is no longer relegated to just blue-collar workers," says Challenger. "With nonstop operations and an increasing number of customers and staff worldwide, companies may employ all-night human resource professionals and third-shift information technology workers. They may even have a late-shift marketing team to conduct meetings with partners on the other side of the globe."

Managers for Round-the-Clock Operations

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that approximately 24 million Americans, half of whom are in white-collar occupations including healthcare, technology, customer service, retail and media, work outside of the 7 a.m.-to-7 p.m. shift. This number is expected to grow as more corporations and institutions operate around the clock. That means more opportunities for managers, who will be needed to lead these organizations and shifts.

Night Shift Pros and Cons

John Coffey, a job and career transition coach for Woodbury, Minnesota-based Winning Careers, spent more than 25 years as a manager in the manufacturing industry. Two things stood out from his experience on the night shift: It was tough to get good sleep, but it was one of the most pleasant times to work.

"I never slept an entire eight hours a day while working this shift," says Coffey. "Brief naps and very fretful sleep was the name of the game."

Coffey says there were many positives to managing the night shift, such as few interruptions from executives, support people, vendors and customers. He also found night-shift teams to be more cohesive than their 9-to-5 counterparts. And in terms of career development, his night job provided a good training ground, because he had to make key decisions without input from other managers or company leaders.

In addition to his own sleep deprivation, negatives included dealing with workers on different shifts, those who were sleep-deprived or workers who would come in late after oversleeping or not make it in at all.

"There are people on these shifts who love it and those who hate it," says Coffey. "For managers, they are often the only person in charge on the shift, so all decisions must be made by them. Everything from quality issues to how to deal with personnel issues fall upon the night-shift manager. Decisions are made and are the object of critique by the powers that be upon their arrival in the morning."

Morale Boosters

Janie O'Connor, president of St. Paul-based Shiftworker.com, has studied night-shift managers and says employee morale can often suffer on the night shift.

"Labels and negative names for shifts were seen as decreasing job satisfaction, which can lead to turnover," says O'Connor. During one of her training classes, one attendee said, "Consider the impact of belonging to the ‘off-shift,' ‘clean-up crew,' ‘dog watch' or ‘graveyard shift' -- it is not very affirming for self-esteem."

O'Connor says night managers also struggle with poor intershift communications, unhealthy eating habits, health issues related to sleep problems and staff members who feel they are not included as key members of the company. "More and more successful managers have become sensitive to these issues," she says.

Tips for Night Managers

O'Connor recommends these strategies for brighter nights:

  • Invite night workers to be creative.

  • Encourage shift workers to voice their opinions, even when not shared among their peers.

  • Ask that human resources personnel be on site during night-shift hours once or twice monthly to discuss issues with managers and/or employees.

  • Use the natural cohesiveness among night workers as a means to achieve production and service.

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