It’s no secret that overworked people make unhappy, underperforming employees. As we revisit our previous article on how 12 hour shifts are the silent killer of a happy and effective workforce, we shine the torch on the dangers of working long hours and the toll it takes on physical and mental health.
Many CCTV operators are contracted to work regular 12-hour shifts. These are often organised in a four-days-on, four-days-off pattern which can include night shifts. Not only does this prevent employees from having a healthy work-life balance, it can also lead to a number of mental health issues.
Research shows that shift-work disrupts circadian rhythms (the 24-hour natural sleep-wake cycle, aka our body clock) which can have a knock-on effect on a person’s ability to rest and function properly. It’s been linked to anxiety, depression and psychosis, as well as decreased cognitive functions relating to attention, memory and response inhibition.
A HSE report on working long hours also suggests a link to fatigue, depression, stress, poor lifestyle habits, cardiovascular disorders, and other physical and psychological health problems. It reports that ‘if there is insufficient recovery time (rest), e.g. due to long work hours, then eventually fatigue will accumulate and affect wellbeing and health outcomes.’
Is burnout lurking around the corner? The evidence stacks up for why we broke away from the excessive shift-work that’s commonplace in our industry to prevent mental and physical exhaustion.
It’s safe to say working long hours has a significant negative impact on health and productivity, but it may also compromise security. Before founding PSM, Kerry Jones, CEO, had over two decades of experience in working and running CCTV control rooms. It’s this experience that’s given her first-hand knowledge of what it’s like to battle the long hours culture and the increased probability of errors.
“At the end of a single 12 hour shift it’s pretty normal to feel fatigued and unable to focus. That’s the way the human brain works.
For a CCTV operator in a monitoring centre, that can be dangerous, because focus and attention to the information presented to them is the job. If we miss a criminal incident because of fatigue, that means the security system the client is relying on is not working. The operator is the link between the technology and the police. They are a key component of the whole system.”
“If we miss a criminal incident because of fatigue, that means the security system the client is relying on is not working. The operator is the link between the technology and the police. They are a key component of the whole system.”
As employees are unlikely to be as sharp or proficient as they were at the start of their shift, and since the talents of our employees are a valuable resource, it would therefore be counterintuitive to our operations to have 12 hour shifts. At PSM, shifts are either 7, 8 or 9 hours long and never more than four in a row. We also have a full five-day break in our structured rota for operators to recharge.
It’s really quite simple – if we look after our employees, they look after our customers.
“At PSM, my longest shifts are 9-hour nights, leaving me with plenty of time to spend with my family and friends, and to prepare myself for the next working day. I highly recommend it!”
To avoid running staff into the ground, our workforce is never overstretched. One of our senior operators, Bernadette, said: “As a CCTV operator, I understand why the 12-hour shift seems effective, at least on paper. But its ineffectiveness is obvious when put into practice… it’s isolating, and negatively impacts your family life, social life, and even your health. At PSM, my longest shifts are 9-hour nights, leaving me with plenty of time to spend with my family and friends, and to prepare myself for the next working day. I highly recommend it!”
How does a happier, healthier team impact our standard of service? Our trained operators are well-rested, more attentive, and consistently identify and respond to criminal attacks to protect our client’s premises.