12 tips to help you stay warm on shift

Autumn is a gorgeous time of year. Leaves turn from green to gold, summer hues fade into something gentler, and sunsets happen on the evening commute as the seasons change.

There’s a nip in the air, too. So with even cooler weather on the way and an energy crisis upon us, if you’re a nurse, carer or support worker, now’s the ideal time to think about how you’ll keep warm on shift this winter.

Need inspiration? No problem – here are 12 handy ways to stay cosy until spring.

1. Wear a base layer

Survival experts and mountaineers use layers to stay comfortable in all kinds of conditions. If you’re not planning to work in the wilderness this winter, don’t worry: you don’t need an excuse to layer up.

High-quality thermal underwear can keep your body temperature stable, so get the best base layer you can afford. To stay in line with the “bare below the elbows” (BBE) principle, wear a short-sleeved thermal top or modify a long-sleeved top so it sits just above the elbow.

Hot tip: Thermals in the wash? Wear a pair of thick tights or a long-sleeve gym shirt under your uniform instead.

2. Snuggle up in a sherpa-lined hoodie

Are you shivering in your scrubs? Don’t let cooler temperatures bring you down on shift this season – add a hoodie to the mix instead.

Many care facilities and hospitals let staff members wear hoodies when they’re not attending to patients. If you get the green light from your boss, wrap up whenever you can.

Hot tip: Maximise the snug factor with a thick, sherpa-lined hoodie or a thermal fleece.

3. Keep your ears warm

Ears are really susceptible to the cold – in fact, they’re often the first parts of your body to register a dip in temperature. Spending a lot of time outside in winter without ear protection can reduce blood flow, increase your risk of ear infection and ultimately damage your ears.

If you regularly feel ear pain in cooler months, we empathise. Wearing a fleece-lined or thermal headband can help keep your ears warm in frosty weather (or on a cold hospital ward).

Hot tip: Ear warmer headbands are super easy to make. Here’s a tutorial to get you started.

4. Fingerless gloves for the win

When we get cold, our sympathetic nervous systems react with vasoconstriction; as a result, blood gets diverted away from the extremities (and skin) and toward vital organs. Brrr! Unfortunately, fingers don’t move as quickly when it’s chilly, and if you have arthritis, it’s likely to get worse when your hands are cold.

One solution for people who need to work in cooler temperatures? Fingerless gloves. You can’t wear gloves while attending to patients, residents or clients, but you probably can if you’re on the phone or paperwork duty.

Hot tip: Cut the fingertips off a pair of fleece gloves with a pair of sharp scissors to create DIY fingerless gloves.

5. Use thermal insoles for cosy toes

Supportive shoes with slip-resistant soles are a winter must-have for nurses, carers and other healthcare workers. Good grip is especially vital if you’re out and about in frosty conditions with a client.

If your feet get cold easily, slip a pair of thermal insoles into your work shoes. Fleece insoles work well on autumn days, but in the depths of winter, multi-layer wool-and-aluminium insoles do a better job.

Hot tip: In freezing weather, treat yourself to adhesive toe warmers or sole warmers.

6. Move as much as possible

One of the best ways to warm up quickly is to move about. Surprisingly, our bodies generate as much as 1,000 watts of heat during strenuous exercise – that’s as much as a typical fan heater.

If you find yourself sitting or standing still on shift, try walking around, going up and down the stairs or dancing on the spot to stay toasty.

Hot tip: Physical activity doesn’t just warm you up – it’s also a great way to lower stress, reduce blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels.

7. Eat foods that take longer to digest

Metabolic processes, including digestion, produce heat. So, it makes sense to eat foods that take longer to digest and provide lots of nutrition, especially in winter. Balanced meals made with nourishing ingredients can make you feel good and help keep you healthy.

Foods like brown rice, oats, other complex carbohydrates and proteins are hard to digest, so they all have a warming effect. Porridge, whole grain bread, eggs, beans and lean meat can keep you satisfied for hours.

Hot tip: Pop the ingredients for an Irish stew or vegan stew into your slow cooker while you work for a hot meal when you get home.

8. Drink something warm

One of the easiest ways to stay warm on shift? Keep a hot drink on the go. Ginger tea, fruit tea, hot chocolate and chai all make interesting alternatives to a regular cuppa.

You might want to drink less coffee, though. Caffeine is a diuretic, so it removes heat-retaining water from the body; consequently, drinking a lot of java can make you feel cooler.

Hot tip: If you fancy a savoury change, choose something like chicken broth or soup instead.

9. Treat yourself to a heated footrest

Heated footrests are a bit of a luxury, but they’re worth considering if you do a lot of paperwork. Some of the snazziest models come with climate control, so they’re ideal for summer, too.

To relieve back pressure and maintain a good posture, pick an ergonomic footrest with an adjustable height setting.

Hot tip: Pair your footrest with a heated seat cushion to stay warm and comfy at a desk or while sitting down on break.

10. Take a blanket break

Blankets are a simple, snuggly winter luxury. There’s almost nothing better than wrapping yourself in a cocoon made of soft fabric, especially if snacks are within reach and you’re watching something good on the telly.

To recreate the same nurturing experience at work, bring a small blanket with you and curl up on a chair with a hot drink for a few minutes at lunchtime.

Hot tip: Using an electric blanket rather than heating a room can help you save energy at home.

11. Sleep tight

If you work split shifts or regularly switch from day to night shifts, it can be tough to get enough sleep. The same applies if you’re stressed or have young children who need you at night.

Sleep deprivation can affect your immune system and make you more sensitive to the cold, so if you can, try to get at least seven hours of sleep between shifts. Make sure your bedroom is dark, limit electronics and leave difficult conversations for later.

Hot tip: If you find it hard to drift off, try a sleep or guided meditation app.

12. Take care of yourself

Staying well is easier said than done, but there are things you can do to boost your immune system in winter. Getting enough sleep, eating mindfully and good infection control procedures all play a big role.

Another crucial way you can safeguard your health is to stay up to date with vaccines and boosters. Try to get your flu jab and Covid-19 booster in as early as possible. The new bivalent Covid-19 booster can help protect you from Omicron and other coronavirus variants.

Hot tip: Your mind matters, too. If you’re feeling especially low, speak to your GP or access mental health resources online.

We hope these tips help you stay warm on shift (and off) this season. If you have cosy ideas we haven’t covered, why not share them with us on social media?

Twitter: @WeAreFlorence | Instagram: @Florencecares

Florence can help you find flexible shifts near you, take essential training courses and improve your work-life balance. Find out more and sign up today.

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