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From nurses and carers, to the emergency services and those working in retail and catering, there are a whole host of occupations where working the night shift is part and parcel of the job. Security is one such profession and here at Venture, the unique challenges associated with working at night are something we know a lot about.
Our highly trained and fully licensed mobile patrol officers are on the road 365 days of the year. Each officer will make multiple visits to client properties during the night, checking for any problems and providing customers with peace of mind that their property and assets are being protected.
And while our officers are out there looking after our clients, we’re looking out for them. The safety and wellbeing of all our employees is a top priority and we do everything we can to support them.
For example, our mobile patrol officers carry personal alarms and there is always someone at the end of the phone line, no matter what time it may be. We also operate a strict check-in system, at the start and end of each shift and every hour in between, and both our officers and vans are fitted with GPS trackers. Each officer is fully trained and we conduct thorough contingency planning and risk assessments, to protect the interests of both our team members and clients.
All these measures are designed to keep our people safe and secure, while ensuring we deliver a high quality and effective service for our clients – regardless of the hour. But there are also steps that individual workers can take, to ensure they remain fit and healthy, and to help manage the unique challenges these types of roles can present.
Here’s our advice for those working the night shift.
One of the key issues associated with night shift work is disrupted sleep. Shift work can often confuse the natural body clock, so it’s important to create a routine that will help you go against the usual pattern and sleep during the day. Just like those working during the day benefit from creating their own bedtime routine.
When the body releases melatonin it makes you feel sleepy, but it will only do so if it receives the right cues from the environment. To increase sleep quality, consider investing in blackout blinds, eyeshades and ear plugs. Also try to keep your bedroom at a cool temperature. All these things will unconsciously give your body sleep cues.
It’s important to take some time to unwind and relax after a shift, before you try to nod off. If your mind is racing, you’re unlikely to fall asleep easily. Find an activity that works for you and helps you brain switch off. For example, try reading or writing a diary - even if you just do it for 10 minutes. Just make sure you avoid screens of any sort, including your mobile phone. There’s lots of research that suggests the blue light from electronic devices can impair the body's ability to sleep.
Taking a bath is another good option, as the process of raising your temperature, followed by a rapid cool-down has been shown to aid relaxation. Ultimately, you need to hit on a routine that works for you personally, so you can relax and sleep when you need to.
Enlisting the support of partners, family or co-tenants, and if possible neighbours, can be invaluable. Make sure they understand that during the day you’re not just taking it easy, you’re getting some much needed quality sleep before your next shift.
Being disciplined is essential here. Don’t answer the front door, take phone calls or messages, or offer to deal with any events on someone else’s behalf. For example, if they’ve ordered something for delivery while they’re out at work. You need to be the guardian of your own sleep hours.
Avoid having coffee and other drinks which contain caffeine for at least four hours before the end of your shift. Also avoid smoking. Now we realise this can be tricky, as when you’re tired, particularly towards the end of a shift, you may need a pick-me-up to help you keep going. But the healthiest pattern you can get in to is achieving quality sleep during the day and programming your body to stay awake at night. Stimulants will mess with that, stopping you sleeping well, and so encouraging you to take even more pick me ups at night.
When your work patterns are opposed to your partner’s, then it’s important to develop a clear system for communication. Creating a structure for the exchange of critical information – such as detailed notes about household arrangements, children’s schedules etc – can help make life easier for all concerned.
More broadly, managing a social life can sometimes be a little trickier. It can be hard to explain that all you need to do is sleep when the perception may be that you’ve got all day to do whatever you want! You will invariably miss out on some evening events because of your shift patterns, but you’ll also have greater flexibility during the day, which can help balance this out to some extent.
It’s very important to think about what you’re eating and to ensure you’re drinking enough throughout your shift. If you can, always have a plan so you’re not grabbing something on the fly. The food and drink buying options for night shift workers will often be limited, so it pays to think ahead.
Drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated and alert, and try to minimise the amount of processed and fatty foods you’re consuming. Also pay attention to your caffeine levels (you don’t want to end up with the jitters and as we’ve touched on, it won’t help with your sleep patterns either).
Try to eat a substantial meal well before you start work, so you have the energy you need to perform but aren’t sluggish having just eaten it. And remember that being tired can sometimes feel like hunger, making the bright lights of the 24hour fast food joint look tempting. But this won’t help you feel better or keep your body happy and healthy.
Ultimately, you’ll need to experiment and find what works best for you, but your energy levels, sleep and overall health will all be affected by your diet and nutrition.
Making sure you do some form of exercise is also important for overall health and wellbeing. If your job involves a lot of sitting around, then aim to get up and go for a walk around at least once every hour. Getting your body active doesn’t have to be limited to gym visits or playing a sport you love. The more active you can be during your working hours – i.e. the more you move - the more awake and better you’ll feel in the long run.
Exercising before a night shift may also help tackle stress and improve mood. Or you may find that working out after a night shift will aid sleep and relaxation during the day. Experiment and find what works for you.
While working the night shift may present some unique challenges, there are also many benefits. If you like the idea of an ‘off-peak’ lifestyle, then night shift working could be just the ticket. There’s no more battling the traffic at peak commuter times. When you get to work, you’ll often be working on your own or as part of a small team, which is ideal for self-reliant people who excel at working from their own initiative and prefer to avoid meetings, co-workers, office politics – in fact, people who prefer to avoid the busy office environment altogether!
You can also take advantage of all kinds of facilities during the quieter daytime hours, when most people are at work. From gyms, health clubs, art galleries and museums, to shops, and appointments at opticians and other health services, most will be less crowded, easier to access, and may even be available at a lower cost.
You might even be able to avoid childcare costs, find time to take a further education course, pursue other hobbies, and take advantage of cheaper travel costs.
And there’s something quite special about being up and about, while most around you are asleep. A hidden world of sights and sounds awaits, that others will probably never experience.
At Venture, we are committed to excellence and invest heavily in recruiting the best of the best. We believe in supporting all our team members to achieve their potential, through ongoing training and career progression opportunities.
If you’re SIA licensed and passionate about providing a high quality service, then we want to hear from you. View our latest vacancies here.