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Health Corner: Give the gift of flexibility

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

If you manage shift workers, you worry about coverage: You must make sure you’ve scheduled sufficient staff to cover every shift.

Yes, that’s stressful. But you’re not the only one facing stress.

Shift workers are generally lower-paid and sometimes preoccupied with financial worries or other problems. They may not pay attention to healthy habits.

The challenge grows if you supervise evening or night shifts. Working non-standard hours can con-tribute to myriad health problems, according to a May 2008 article in American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Working nights disrupts normal circadian rhythms. It can also undermine mental health by preventing the employee from getting into social synch with the rest of the world.

Take steps to enhance shift workers’ health. Examples include giving them at least partial control over their schedules and speeding up shift rotations (i.e., arranging for an employee to work fewer days on a set schedule before switching to different hours).

Research shows that having people work the same shift for three straight days—and then plugging them into another shift for a few days—provides health benefits compared with working seven or more consecutive evenings or nights.

Provide healthy choices

A harried or exhausted worker may not eat or drink healthily. If your staffers rush to arrive on time, they may gulp sweet soda and dine on salty chips.

A modest investment in nutritious snacks and beverages can pay off. Your workers will have more energy and better morale if they can munch on bags of nuts or raisins and stay hydrated with water or tea.

It also makes sense to dangle cash incentives and other prizes for employees who adopt healthier habits such as losing weight or stopping smoking. Providing relaxing options for employees during their breaks (from scented neck wraps to “quiet rooms” for grabbing quick siestas) may seem indulgent, but they can deliver bottom-line business benefits.

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