Shift patterned work, especially rotation including night duty are an important factor in determining the development of maladaptive fatigue.
In the study: Work-related fatigue and recovery: the contribution of age, domestic responsibilities and shift work developed by Peter C. Winwood BDS BPsych, Antony H. Winefield PhD and Kurt Lushington PhD from the Department of Applied Psychological Research, University of South Australia we can clearly notice the impact of shift work on other factors, including age. The authors refer that the youngest group reported the highest fatigue and the longer recovering period than the older group. But the later had experience in recovering and a well-adapted ‘survivor cohort’ that allowed them to recover faster and removing the age variable from the table.

The authors concluded that unpredictable internal shift rotations, including night duty, are inimical to maintaining health and a low level of work-related fatigue.

The same was found on the other side of the globe in Thames Police Officers, where after a change in the Police officers’ rotas there was a higher level of stress. “TVP Federation carried out the survey after a new system was introduced, and 76% of the 1,172 officers who completed it said their work/life balance had deteriorated.” This change implied shorter rest intervals between shifts and overtime. Federation chairman Craig O'Leary said "They don't want the overtime, they want to see their families. They want to feel like they're well rested.” This led to two-thirds saying they were more likely to leave.

This serves to show that all these changes have a high impact on workforce happiness leaves and worker retention as well as a lower fatigue level and a minimized number of fatigue-related errors.

Work Shift

It is common knowledge that non-conventional work hours are clearly detrimental to both short and long-term health. But “It can be hard to prioritize your personal health when battling with exhaustion, unhealthy food cravings and sleep deprivation.”

When mental fatigue levels are compared between day hours and graveyard shift workers the stress and fatigue symptoms are even more visible.

According to Harriet Fox from the effects can be:

Short-Term Health Effects of Shift Work:

  • Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea, constipation and upset stomach
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Increased risk of on-the-job or vehicle accidents
  • General feelings of ill health

Long-Term Health Effects of Shift Work:

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Diabetes and metabolic syndrome
  • Obesity
  • Depression and mood disorders
  • Serious gastrointestinal problems
  • Higher chance of getting colds or the flu
  • Menstrual irregularities or fertility problems

This comes to show the importance of monitoring the workforce fatigue levels so that changes can be implemented (whenever possible) to increase worker life quality, reduce fatigue-related errors and increase overall team health.