The Department of Correctional Services is the South African Government Department that is responsible for the smooth running of the South African correctional system. Correctional facilities have to be staffed twenty four hours a day and therefore correctional officials have to work fixed or rotating shifts to ensure that the needs of offenders are taken care of. The number of staff members in many South African correctional centres is not sufficient to ensure proper care and management of offenders, but staff shortages during the night is even more chronic compared to staff shortages experienced during the day. It is vital that correctional officials be alert and vigilant at all times and therefore these staff shortages contribute to high levels of stress, lack of motivation and feelings of being overwhelmed by the work load.
Shift work is a phenomenon that is increasing worldwide. It is important to understand the impact of work schedules as more people seem to be working shifts that do not conform to the standard work week. Shift workers seem very healthy when their illnesses are compared to that of the general public. Many health problems have been detected in shift workers, including stress related conditions, as any work schedule can act as a stressor if the needs of the individual worker are not taken into consideration.
Sleeping patterns during the day differ from sleeping patterns at night. Shift work disrupts a person’s circadian rhythms and therefore contributes to poorer physical and psychological health. It further causes poorer productivity and increases the possibility of becoming involved in accidents. Working night duty is very stressful to the night shift worker who has to cope with challenges at work and at home. There is a variety of common stressors at work that affect shift workers physiologically (cardiovascular, stroke, digestive problems, back pain and arthritis, headaches, increased blood pressure and hormonal), psychologically (burnout, depression, anxiety, family problems, sleep problems and job dissatisfaction) and behaviouraly (absence, tardiness, substance abuse, accidents, sabotage / violence, poor decision making, poor job performance and a high personnel turnover).
This study focused on understanding the positive and negative impact of working permanent night duty on correctional officials. The findings of this study will be helpful to correctional officials who work permanent night duty in addressing employee workplace support.