Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Importance of Well-Rested Employees

Understanding how the human body and mind work is important to understanding how to have the most efficient, productive workers. Swing shifts are among the worst things you can do to your employees -- and to your company. Companies are tempted to institute swing shifts on the idea that it's only "fair" that everyone have to work what is perceived to be a bad shift -- 3rd shift. What results, however, is a tired work force who cannot think well.

Hormones are synchronized with the wake-sleep cycle. When people change shifts, the brain never knows when it's supposed to be asleep, so this affects how people function.

People who change shifts every few days are going to have all kinds of problems related to memory and learning, Fishbein [a neuroscientist at the City University of New York] said. This kind of schedule especially affects what he called relational memories, which involve the ability to understand how one thing is related to another.
One cannot imagine anything worse to make less efficient than relational memories, which only adds to the problems of slower work from sleepy workers, and bad thinking and slower work from workers who cannot concentrate.

Many 3rd shift workers also readjust their schedules on their days off, which is something they really should not do. It is understandible that one may want to have their days back on their days off, but in the end, it's harmful to the person changing their sleep schedules around -- for several physical and mental reasons.

Overall, well-rested employees are more productive employees. You may be getting less out of your employees by having them work earlier, later, or on swing shifts.

Update: and here is why all of the above problems occur. It turns out that when you are sleepy, part of your brain will take a quick nap. Your employees may literally be half-asleep on the job, even when apparently awake.

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