behind the scenes

Behind the Scenes - ABA After Dark

Not many of us that work a typical eight to five schedule think much about our colleagues who don’t. We are like ships that pass in the night, so to speak.

But nearly 15 million Americans work a permanent night shift or regularly rotate in and out of night shifts. And more than a few ABA staff professionals are here after the sun goes down and sometimes when the sun comes up again in the morning.

As a residential campus, with plenty of night classes, events and activities, Sac State is just getting its second wind after dark. Even when the lights go out, ABA’s shift professionals are on board performing critical safety and maintenance functions and acting as the eyes and ears of AIRC Nightthe campus. While the ABA team does not represent the entirety of the University’s night shift staff, they form an extensive network of self-motivated professionals who collaborate to ensure that the campus is functional and safe.

Shift work is the norm in public safety and custodial professions and is standard for agencies where round-the-clock monitoring of systems makes sense. ABA’s “after dark” professionals represent the University Police Department and Facilities Management (FM) Central Plant, both of which operate 24/7, as well as FM trades, grounds, custodial and other specialties.

The Police Department maintains a staff of law enforcement professionals at all hours, from officers and dispatchers to community service officers and specialists. With the cover of dark and fewer people on campus, staffing is critical for crime prevention and emergency response. Facilities Management building engineers oversee the Central Plant, which Cleaning Floornever shuts down. In fact, most of the campus cooling energy is generated by chilling water at night for distribution the next day.

In addition, Facilities Management trades professionals are on hand to perform work that cannot be done while rooms are occupied and to ensure coverage for emergencies. And, many of the custodial staff clock-on after building occupants leave for the day. Other specialists, including light changers and streets sweepers, work after hours to maximize efficiency.

Despite the unconventional hours, many of ABA’s professionals enjoy the benefits of working “after dark.” It takes a certain mind-set for shift work - and many ABA shift professionals say they are naturally “night people.” If not, they have adapted to night work so well that they consider the day shift unusual, like Building Service Engineer Chris Smith. "I, as well as my family, have adjusted over the years to a night shift, so now a day shift would seem out of the ordinary,” said Smith. 

Officer Nathan Rice agrees. "I think the night shift is perfect for my personality. The shifts allow me to take my children to school each morning and have dinner with them each night,” Dispatchsaid Rice. The upside for the campus is that there are greater opportunities for officers to spend time with students when on patrol, sharing precautionary tips to enhance safety.

Most appreciate the peace and quiet of nighttime at Sac State, working together to cover issues with fewer staff and resources. The team has developed a spirit of camaraderie not unlike that of their day-work colleagues. "I am very proud to work with a group of people who are self-motivated and have exceptional work ethics," said Lead Custodian Peggy Tucker. Some, like Tucker, have worked graveyard or swing shift close to their entire careers at Sac State. For Peggy, that’s 19 out of 21 years.

Electrician Dennis Franzen, who has worked the swing shift for just over a year, always wanted to try it, and so far loves it. “There is less hustle and bustle and more time to concentrate on the task at hand,” he said. “Sac State is just as beautiful in the dark night as it is in the bright day!”

Central PlantOn watch commander rotation since July, Lieutenant David Heaphy enjoys the sunsets, and appreciates the lack of traffic and parking congestion. But, the challenges at night are greater, with more difficult access to problem solvers and troubleshooters, and fewer people on campus to report suspicious activity.

All in all, while the population of students, faculty, and staff dwindles significantly after hours, ABA and other University shift personnel are awake and alert and reporting to work. You could say the campus never sleeps, thanks to those who are willing to adapt their schedules to keep it going. ABA values the night crew for helping to maintain an excellent teaching, learning, living and working environment – after dark.

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Office of Organizational Development

California State University, Sacramento

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