By Sarah Eglin, Head of People Partnering, Retail Support and Logistics and Emma Johnstone, People Partner, Change Delivery 

We’re super excited to share the fantastic news about winning the ‘Wellbeing and Mental Health Initiative of the Year’ at the Personnel Awards, for the UK’s largest ever engagement programme, called Night Club. 

How many times have you not had a good night’s sleep? How did this make you feel? Are you living with someone who works nights? What impact do you see this having on them? 

Sleep impacts all of us in some way, but for Night Workers, the impact is much more noticeable; hence why Night Club was created. So, what’s Night Club? It’s a programme that brought together night shift workers with sleep researchers to educate them on how to improve the quality of their sleep, their productivity and ultimately their happiness and wellbeing.  

Did you know that before coronavirus, 1 in 8 of the UK were night workers, but during the pandemic, more than 1 in 5 say they are working at night, with more than half of these classified as key workers. This translates to seven million UK adults working at night during coronavirus, of which 3.8 million are key workers. 

Night shift workers are integral to the Co-op, and many of our colleagues work a night shift or late nights – in our Food depots, shops and in Funeralcare. Sleep is something that unites us all – we all need it! Our research told us that our night shift workers often feel ‘forgotten’ or ‘invisible’ (55% of Night Workers stated they felt invisible in the UK) and are highly likely to face greater issues in terms of getting quality sleep. This, in turn, can affect their happiness, productivity, rate of absenteeism and overall mental and physical wellbeing. 

These findings prompted us to take immediate action. We spent some time talking to our night shift colleagues to understand how we could help them. So, in partnership with the charity ‘The Wellcome Trust’, and a creative design agency called ‘The Liminal Space’, we developed Night Club. 

We successfully piloted Night Club in the Thurrock Depot in 2018 and decided to spread this initiative across our business. So, we went on a roadshow that brought together Co-op night-time workers with sleep researchers from Oxford University, to help improve the quality of people’s sleep and wellbeing.  

While on the roadshow, we visited all the biggest Co-op logistics depot sites and Angel Square, held an event with our top 600 leaders, hosted 210 sessions, engaged over 1,700 colleagues and trained more than 40 ‘sleep champions’ to promote the benefits of sleep to colleagues across the business.  

We taught colleagues about the impact light has on sleep, how diet affects sleep and alertness, and how a lack of sleep affects mental health and the natural body clock. Advice included recipes, to help workers with the cravings their disrupted body clock produces for caffeine, carbs and energy drinks, and information about products such as blackout blinds to help them sleep during the day, and coloured goggles – orange to stimulate sleep at home, and blue, which helps them stay awake and alert at work. 

As a result, feedback from colleagues suggests that sleep has improved for some colleagues while others are much more aware of sleep issues and the impact this can have on their mental health. 

  • 88% learned something new 
  • 73% found their visit enjoyable
  • 64% found it relevant

What’s next for the Night Club initiative? 

As a member-owned business, our vision is to Co-operate for a fairer world. We believe that we can achieve great things when we work together to create a better society – this includes supporting mental and physical wellbeing, of which Sleep is fundamental too.  

We’ve linked up with Leadfest Autumn to offer a workshop called ‘Sweet Dreams’ based purely on Sleep. And we’re looking at how we can make the Night Club supporting materials accessible for all colleagues (Sleep Toolkit) regardless of what shift you work as Sleep impacts us all. 

We’re pleased to have been able to work in collaboration with external stakeholders to bring this ground-breaking project to fruition. We want to share the knowledge we’ve gained with other organisations such as the NHS and many other businesses to establish a framework of best practice.  

We’ve also invited other community organisations to learn about sleep health, and we’re also linking in with the trade unions USDAW and Unite and charities like MIND and the Samaritans.  

And finally, the great news is that the brilliant research carried out as part of the Night Club programme has come to the attention of our government, so some of the colleagues from the programme team will be meeting business leaders and policymakers in Westminster on 24 November to create a movement for the UK’s night workers. 

Watch the video below to get a real sense of the programme and how it supported our colleagues