Emotionally exhausted? Are you working the night shift?

Topic: Burnout
Publication: Journal of Business and Psychology (WINTER 2010)
Article: Emotional exhaustion among employees without social or client contact: the key role of nonstandard work schedules
Authors: J. L. S. Wittmer, J.E. Martin
Reviewed By: Rebecca Eckart

With close to 40% of Americans now working nonstandard schedules (part-time and full-time), defined as shifts outside the normal Monday through Friday day time 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 (i.e., night time or evening) can further exacerbate the factors leading to emotional exhaustion.

Wittmer and 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. Does this sound like your workforce?

If so then you should be aware 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, negative physical and psychological consequences, and turnover. Managers understanding that night shift employees are affected differently by job demands and work-family conflict than those on the day and evening shift could possibly prevent some emotional exhaustion for these workers.

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.