By Reon Janse van Rensburg
As a professional artisan at the forefront of technical occupations, you and your colleagues might often have to endure longer working hours and even non-standard working hours. Although most employees do not prefer night shifts, it does happen that night shifts or alternative shifts must be worked on a daily basis or from time to time to catch up on extra or overdue work.
Such shifts are not only unhealthy for employees; they also pose safety risks to the workplace. The effects of long or non-standard working hours are not limited to individual employees, but also affects their families and society in general. Regular long working hours cost businesses significantly more money, especially if accidents occur in the workplace.
Some industries or occupations have no choice but to rely on employees working shifts because of the workload or the type of work and the circumstances in which it is performed.
However, it is important to give all employee that must work shifts, overtime or non-standard working hours the opportunity to learn how to make the most of every working moment in order to prevent their physical and mental health from suffering. It is also beneficial for the employer because healthy employees are more productive and experience more job satisfaction in performing their daily tasks.
Nowadays there is more evidence showing that long or non-standard working hours on a regular basis have detrimental effects on human health and safety in the workplace. Research has shown that long working hours on a regular basis have negative effects over both the short term and the long term, and that this may lead to increased physiological responses such as higher levels of stress, fatigue and sleep disturbances.
Research also indicates that it may lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits such a smoking, alcohol abuse, irregular eating habits and also a lack of exercise, which over the long term can lead to health problems such as cardiovascular disease, gastro-intestinal and reproductive disorders, muscle and skeletal disorders, chronic infections and mental illness.
Therefore, it would be beneficial if employers taught and equipped employees with information on how to manage their time at work to deliver optimal production without compromising their own health or their jobs.
Solidarity’s Guild for Artisans compiled a few tips that employees who have to work long hours may use for increasing their output and production while at the same time preventing burnout. Employers will also benefit from this because the implementation of these tips could prevent unnecessary accidents in the workplace, save money and increase production.
How can employees manage their time optimally without compromising themselves or their careers?
- Plan ahead
Start each day with a plan. It often happens that one wanders around trying to find something to do next, but that only wastes time. That is why it is better to plan ahead.
Today’s planning should have been done yesterday – spend the last 15 minutes of your workday to prepare for tomorrow. Make a list of the most important things to do the next day.
Before you start your work in the morning – make a list of the most important tasks to be done and start with those tasks that require the most productivity.
- Be organised and tackle one task at a time
Being unorganised wastes precious time. The average employee in the USA spends 2,5 days per year looking for tools to complete specific tasks. It costs companies a lot of money to replace lost or misplaced tools.
This can be prevented by getting organised. Create a workstation where every tool has a specific place where it can be stored safely. By tackling one task at a time, you ensure that only the most necessary tools are used. Also, do not lend out your tools to your colleagues, and if you do, make sure they are returned to you. You should also make sure your workstation is clean before you leave work at the end of each day so that you can start the next day with a clean and fresh slate.
A clean workstation also prevents unnecessary accidents.
- You are not perfect
High standards in the workplace are good and necessary, but being a perfectionist is unhealthy. If you act like a perfectionist, no task will ever be performed well enough, and it could also mean that you will want to keep going back to the same task. That would result in an unproductive day in which too little is accomplished.
Do your best an improve on things that are really necessary, and then move on.
- Learn to say no
You will find it difficult to make the most of the time at your disposal if you do not learn how and when to say no. Only you can really know what you have time for, and when you have other more important tasks or if you already have enough work at a specific time, do not hesitate to say no.
Instead of taking on many tasks at the same time, you should tackle fewer tasks that offer little or no value. Remember the 80/20 rule – 80% of your output comes from 20% of your input. Work according to this.
- Ensure employees all have similar training
The entire system or a whole day’s work could come to a halt if everyone is not able to perform all the tasks that should be done. If only one or a few employees are able to perform certain tasks, the employees with the skills will have to work overtime to complete all the work. This will not only result in unnecessary costs, but it will also expose your best employees to burnout.
The even distribution of responsibilities and specialist skills among the entire team is another way of reducing overtime. Instead of relying on one skilled employee, the other team members should also be trained to help carry the workload.