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Managing the 24-hour team

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in Leaders & Managers,People Management

According to the 2000 U.S. Census, nearly one in five American workers now reports for work between midnight and 6:30 am. Graveyard-shift work is growing rapidly, among both white-and blue-collar jobs and in all industries, and on teams whose managers supervise both day-and night-shift workers. Some tips:

- Check in with your night shift. If you've got more than one or two late-shift workers, you need to figure out how to address communication needs — holding staff meetings, providing training, arranging employee get-togethers.

It's both unfair and unproductive to expect night-shift workers to routinely come into work during the day for such functions, although early-morning times might work for everyone. While you can handle a lot of everyday communications via e-mail or memo, you should on occasion check in, in person, with your night shift to reinforce the message.

- Consider safety and wellness. Night-shift workers are traditionally at greater risk both of on-the-job accidents and of other health problems. It's worth taking special care to make sure both your safety and your employee-wellness programs extend their reach to the late shift. Several consultants have offerings tailored to the special needs of night-shift workers — helping them adjust sleep schedules, balance work and family needs, and so forth.

- Keep expectations consistent. While you may need a special approach to managing the night shift, you shouldn't expect either less or more out of your late-shift workers. This is especially true if — as is often now the case — your late-night workers are providing customer service in a 24-hour environment. Again, take care to make sure you're communicating what you expect and monitoring what your people deliver.

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