On May 1st, Labour Night took place. As part of this, we, Time Design Foundation, conducted interviews with several night workers. In this interview, we spoke to Manu Akwasi (46) and Jones Berko (45), both working at a cleaning company. Jones is manager of night shifts and has worked there since 2010. Previously, Jones worked as a night cleaner in several five- and four-star hotels in Amsterdam. Manu has worked mainly in night shifts as team leader of night shift staff for the past 13 years.  In addition, Manu assists Jones during the day when needed. They mainly clean in hotels and public areas. The night shift usually starts at 11pm or 10pm and ends at 7am or 6am, depending on the hotel. They both have a lot of experience in night work and would like to share their experience with us.

When asked how they experience night work and how they cope with it, Manu replied, “I find working at night challenging on the one hand because mornings are tough and you have to get used to less sleep, but on the other hand I enjoy it because it is very quiet at night, you don’t feel any pressure or stress. In my opinion, people can work more productively at night and concentrate better on details because you are not distracted.” Jones’ answer to this question was, “Working at night disrupts your sleep pattern because you don’t get the normal eight hours of sleep. You get a maximum of five hours of sleep a day. But for me, working at night was a good way to balance my family life with children. My wife worked as a nurse during the day, so I had to look after the children and take them to school when I came home from work in the morning. After picking them up from school around 4pm, my wife would come back from work and I would try to sleep before I had to go back to work.”

But for me, working at night was a good way to balance my family life with children.

We asked Manu and Jones if they are aware of the health risks posed by night work. Jones replied with: “I am definitely aware of the effects of night work, such as anxiety and depression. I think it would be less severe if they allowed us to take a nap during our night break. But most hotels don’t allow that. Even if we are allowed an hour’s break, or a 30-minute paid break. If you are in the canteen and you want to take a 30-minute nap during your break and a security guard sees you, he will report you to management and management hates people who nap during their break. I think a nap at night will improve a lot of things. It makes people more efficient and more focused, especially at night when you are tired.”

When we work in a team, we really like our coffee breaks

When asked how they try to stay healthy at night and whether they reduce coffee consumption, Manu replied, “No, coffee makes us stay awake. And when we work in a team, we really like our coffee breaks, this is the time when we talk to our colleagues and exchange jokes. But besides that, our diet is something to be aware of. When you come home in the morning, it’s better not to eat heavy food. Staying healthy when you work at night is a challenge.”

Does the cleaning company educate its employees about night work? Jones replied, “No, they don’t give seminars or workshops or information sessions where they talk about night work. I would recommend them to do so. They can give advice on how to manage your lifestyle and what are the best foods to eat.” Finally, Jones gave us some very valuable advice: “As an expert on night work, I would advise other night workers to get at least two or three hours of sleep before your shift starts.” So night workers, keep that in mind! 😉