Shift work: Why it’s So Hard & What You Can Do

Being a shift worker has its benefits; often the rates of pay can be rewarding, the hours often flexible and some workers love shift work as it allows them to spend more time with their children, family or partner. Working shifts is common to many professions, including retail, hospitality, media, health and security.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 1.4 million Australian employees usually worked shift work in their main job, which accounts for 16% of all employees.

“Of all male employees, 17% usually worked shift work, compared with 15% of all female employees,” the ABS says. “Of all employees who regularly worked shift work, 15% (or over 200,000) worked a regular night or evening shift.” Here are 10 things that only shift workers know, some are positive, some are challenges!

shift work

#1: With shift work: It’s difficult to plan in advance

Shift workers often get used to “playing it by ear” when it comes to making social plans. According to LifeHack, “Your boss might promise that the rotations will be up at least three weeks in advance, but they never are. Which means every Facebook event you’re invited to, has you listed under ‘maybe’. Usually this is the case until the day before when you realise they’ve switched your shift and you can’t go. Yet again.”

#2: With shift work: Nothing wakes you up!

Shift workers become great at catching a few Z’s whenever and wherever they can! “You’ve learned the skill of sleeping through anything as a matter of survival,” says Thought Catalogue. “If you didn’t figure out how to block out the sounds of civilization, you would never sleep. This has backfired on you several times, and resulted in you sleeping through important phone calls or fire alarms.”

#3: With shift work: You’re always hungry

Often shift workers find that their appetite is out of control. There have even been studies that show that shift workers have a higher Body Mass Index (or BMI). This Italian study found that shift work “may be directly responsible for increased body fatness and is indirectly associated with higher blood pressure levels and some features of metabolic syndrome.”

shift work

#4: With shift work: You feel a bit left out of workplace jokes

Having a great working culture can be one of the perks of any job, and often shift workers miss out on the camaraderie that day workers have. “You always miss out on all the inside work jokes because you’re a lone ranger and never get to see anyone,” says I Hate Working in Retail Blog. “Your friends think that your life is sweet because you can pretty much do whatever you want during the day.” So, there are some wins for shift workers too.

#5: With shift work: You can’t remember what day of the week it is!

One of the most widely reported phenomena of shift work is that the hours and the days of the week start to lose their meaning! “Now that your sleeping pattern is ruined you never know what day of the week it is, since you usually start work on a Monday and finish on a Tuesday morning,” says LifeHack. Other shift workers says that they’ll wake up in the dark during the winter months and question whether the clock reads 6am or 6pm.

#6: With shift work: You go to work for peace and quiet

It’s true: shift workers enjoy quieter places than regular staff members; mostly people have gone home and only ‘skeleton’ staff operates. Thought Catalogue says, “One of the greatest perks of your job is hearing about the hordes of people your friends have to deal with at work, and knowing that you usually only have to deal with a fraction of that, because most people are asleep.”

shift work

#7: With shift work: You encounter more weirdos than average

However, the ‘crazies’ do come out late at night or in the wee hours of the morning – something almost all shift workers have come to realise! “The bizarre people you encounter when buying a meal deal at 10pm on your ‘lunch break’,” can be very strange, says Metro.co.uk. “There’s a reason normal people don’t shop at night in 24 hour supermarkets. It’s to escape the weirdos who linger in the aisles after dark.”

#8: With shift work: You miss a lot of family birthdays, dinners and celebrations

Yes, this is one of the challenging parts about shift work. Dinner at 7 on a Friday? Family gathering on Sunday? Holiday plans over the Christmas “break”? In many cases, shift workers have to get used to missing out on important events that their family and friends can enjoy.

#9 With shift work: You’re a potential health risk

However, are you at a greater risk of harming your health? According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), “A team of researchers from Canada and Norway analysed 34 previous studies in the British Medical Journal, involving more than 2 million workers. They found shift work is linked to a 23 per cent increased risk of heart attack, and the chances of having a stroke go up a further 5 per cent.”

They found that in all, the research found about one in 14 heart attacks and one in 40 strokes were directly related to the effects of shift work.

#10: With shift work: You know your neighbourhood’s schedule

The coffee shop that doesn’t open until 7am? The pizza shop that stops delivering at 10pm? These are potential hazards for the average shift worker. “You know what time every restaurant around you closes and if they deliver after midnight,” says PostGradProblems. “Thinking that 24 Hour Fitness was the greatest invention ever and convincing yourself you always go on your night off.”

Are you a shift worker? Do you find it impacts positively or negatively on your life? Tell me in the comments below!

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