How To Motivate Employees To Work Odd Hours

When you run your own business, the hours are rarely written in stone. And there’s nowhere this is more true than in the restaurant business. When your place of business is open around the clock, it’s important that as a manager, you’re able to motivate employees to work odd hours - at least occasionally.

In our previous post, we talked about ways to find the right audience for your odd shifts. But if you’re not looking to make a new hire, or you’re having trouble getting your current staff to help cover shifts that don’t fall within typical working hours, you might need consider additional ways to motivate them to work atypical hours. If you’re desperate enough to beg, check out our tips below for some more effective ways to motivate your employees to take the extra late (or super early) shift.

New Responsibilities

It’s easy to get into a routine at work, and for most people this is a good thing. It makes their days more predictable and efficient and ensures that their work is consistent and reliable. But not everyone works best in a routine. Sometimes offering new responsibilities and a change of pace is just what an employee needs to take pride in their work again.

Although most employees see off hours as less than ideal, there’s no doubt that the requirements and responsibilities of a different shift will be different than a staff member’s usual shift. The new challenges could be a great way for your employees to grow and learn. Framing up these shifts as a change of pace could help them see the benefit in jumping in and helping round out your schedule.

To do this, make a list of your employees’ typical duties per shift. Then make a list of the duties during the shift you need help with (the odd hours shift). As you compare the two lists, make note of any obvious places for growth, learning or improvement, and share those with each employee. It may be just the push they need to jump in and help.


The restaurant business is rarely slow - especially during typical shifts. One of the benefits of the odd-hour shift is that there’s often a slower period that allows your staff to catch up on the important (but sometimes overlooked) tasks that keep your business running smoothly. And in some cases, when all the work is finished, employees even have a chance to finish the “nice-to-do” list.

You can’t always promise it, but having a few moments of down time during a shift can be an appealing incentive for your staff. And while it’s probably not ok all the time, it’s ok to let your staff know that when they’ve completed their work for the evening (all of it!), that they’re free to tend to whatever they’d like: special projects they’ve wanted to help with, a little rest time, or even homework. Some employers are terrified to offer employees this level of freedom. But, often you’ll find that with some structure, it can be a great way to handle your off-hour shifts.

Try making a list of the essential tasks that need to be done in every shift - including the odd-hour ones. Then, make a “wish list” of things that could get done with a little more free time. When you share these lists with employees, let them know that when the lists are complete, they’re free to spend their time as they choose (within reason, of course).


As we’ve covered before, there are many ways to offer incentives to your employees - and compensation is just one of them. But the truth is, it’s a very compelling one when you’re looking for help with an off-hour shift that’s hard to fill.

One way to frame additional compensation for an odd hour shift is to offer a one-time bonus for signing on for several shifts. This way, you’re not tied to a higher hourly rate for each shift - but you show your employees that you understand the difficulty of working outside of typical hours.

How have you motivated your employees to work odd hours? Tell us in the comments!