Night Shift Workers Risk Burnout

With close to 40% of Americans now working nonstandard schedules, defined as shifts outside the normal Monday through Friday daytime schedule, there is an ever pressing necessity for managers to understand the needs of these employees. One area of recent exploration around nonstandard schedules is burnout. Emotional exhaustion, a core component of burnout, is typified by a general lack of energy, tiredness, fatigue, and frustration. New findings suggest that working a nonstandard shift can further exacerbate the factors leading to emotional exhaustion.


Researchers (Wittmer & Martin, 2010) report that employees on the night shift suffer from significantly higher emotional exhaustion than either the employees on the day or evening shifts. These researchers speculate that night shift workers experience high job demands (e.g., role conflict, unfavorable working conditions) and also have significantly lower resources (e.g., higher work-family conflict) than day or evening shift employees. It is also interesting to note that this study used employees that had little to no contact with customers and little contact with coworkers. It seems that, even with no interpersonal contact, working the night shift may make employees more sensitive to job demands and increase their likeliness for emotional exhaustion.


Burnout, specifically emotional exhaustion, is associated with lower performance, increased turnover, and negative physical and psychological consequences. Managers should understand that night shift employees are affected differently by job demands compared to those on the day and evening shift. This knowledge could be the starting point of mitigating emotional exhaustion for these workers. Organizational leaders may also want to set up interventions that could help their employees better manage their work demands, deal with stress, and maintain good health.


Wittmer, J.L.S., & Martin, J.E. (2010). Emotional exhaustion among employees without social or client contact: the key role of nonstandard work schedules. Journal of Business and Psychology, 25(4), 607-623.

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