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Tips For Women Working Night Shifts

Rise with the lark and work from dawn to dusk – is the common work and rest schedule. But there are times when the opposite happens – there are people who work from dusk to dawn. Many of these nightshift workers
are women.

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Professions like journalism, call centres, the police force, nursing and medical professions require their employees to work throughout the night. Though it is true that a day-time job is far more convenient, especially for women, rather than lamenting the disadvantages of graveyard shifts perhaps we could try to find ways to make shift work easier and more comfortable.

  • Catching up on adequate sleep:

Sleep is a rhythmic activity, mediated by sunrise and sunset, which keeps our circadian clock in sync. Reversing this normal sleep-wake cycle can cause many health problems like gastritis, acidity, insomnia, indigestion, and high blood pressure. Catching up on sound sleep during the daytime is sometimes difficult as there’s noise and activity all around you. But, becoming dependent on sleeping pills is a very bad idea.

As psychiatrist, Dr. Dayal Mirchandani notes, “Tranquillizers have a negative effect on the quality of sleep and should therefore be avoided. Melatonin is a better option but the long term safety of this is not known.” To catch up on quality sleep you could use earplugs to block noise and put up dark curtains to eliminate heat and sunlight. Avoid caffeine or alcohol just before sleep as they may cause you to wake up after just two hours of sleep.

  • Remaining alert during working hours:

If you’ve caught up on proper sleep during non-working hours it’ll be far easier to stay awake and vigilant in office. Daily exercise also helps to improve oxygen flow, which boosts energy and alertness during waking hours. Keep away from watching too much of TV and using computers which may further deplete your energy. Instead listen to soft music, do pranayam regularly and meditate to relax and revitalize yourself. That’s how you can remain alert at work without exerting yourself.

Also avoid too much partying, drinking and dancing at nightclubs on your day off, as you’ll return to work exhausted instead of refreshed because of lack of rest to your glandular system – a syndrome commonly known as Monday Morning Misery. Use your day off to catch up on quality time with your family instead.

  • Healthy meals and proper nutrition:

Deepa Raghu, former Managing Editor of Food and Nutrition World says, “Shift workers should avoid deep fried, spicy, too salty or sweet food. Have a good meal prior to leaving home for work. For subsequent meals have light healthy snacks.” Adds Almas Nakhuda, assistant to BPO AVP Operations Citel India, “Avoid caffeine to keep awake. Instead have nutritious food or light nutritious snacks.”

  • Ensuring safety:

“Proper transportation ensuring the complete safety of women should be provided to women by the office. Every driver employed should have their photograph and addresses registered with the local police station,” notes Almas Nakhuda.

Former journalist and doctoral candidate Nupur Sen, who is doing research on shift workers in India, adds “Drunken drivers can be a problem and being alone in the cab at night. Some companies take care to ensure this doesn’t happen. Reuters started sending employees text messages with details of the car and driver sent to pick them up as well as his mobile number, and arranged drops and pickups in such a way that women were never the first or last pick up.”

Unfortunately very few Indian companies bother with any of these safety measures. So it’s better to equip yourself with safety gadgets and learn self-defence or drive your own vehicle if you have one.

  • Taking care of the household:

Indian women, especially those from joint families are often expected to take care of the home meticulously as well as do night shifts. Radhika in Chetan Bhagat’s bestselling novel One Night @ the Call Centre had to juggle the demands of her whining in-laws with her office work. If even a single houshold chore didn’t meet her in-law’s expectations they’d complain to no end about it.

Many Indian women face the same plight as Radhika. “Also people should realize that just because a woman is leaving home in the late evening and returning in the wee hours of the morning does not mean she is out as a bar dancer or in a cheap profession. She is out there earning an earnest living in a foreign company which operates during the daylight hours of the particular country where it is headquartered or is in a decent profession which demands a night shift.”

The best way that your children aren’t neglected is by ensuring that a reliable family member is there to take care of them. Almas says, “If there is a grandmother in the home there may be enough care but a maid may not always be reliable”.

  • Higher pay for shift workers a myth in India?

The hard, unfortunate fact is that, in India, most offices including many newspaper houses that hire night shift workers offer neither a higher pay nor perks in the form of compensation for working odd hours.

Almas says, “All those working in evening and night shifts are paid extra in America but the same American companies do not follow those rules of payment in India.” Labour organizations working with shift workers would do well to raise the issue of higher pay for night shift workers.

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