The pros and cons of shift work

The pros and cons of shift work

Shift work - the good, bad and ugly.

As some of you might recall, I did shift work up until the middle of 2011. It’s funny how quickly you forget about that kind of thing, though, once you’re immersed into the dominant 9-5, Monday to Friday mindset.

My journo friends who don’t work in magazines/community papers/business news all work constantly changing hours. There are a couple of cops from our high school group who also work long and varying shifts, with long stretches of days on followed by long stretches of days off.  And of course, there’s my other friend, who’s a newly minted doctor and gets slammed with shifts that would probably find me passed out from exhaustion by the end of my first week. Plus security, hospitality and all kinds of other industries also operate round the clock, year-round.

An ex-colleague has decided that as much as shift work stinks, it’s more about the people and environment than anything else: i.e., it’s better to work shifts with an amazing boss overseeing you rather than work regular hours but chafe under management by a total prick. Intellectually, I agree – but having experienced the pros and cons of shift work, I still hope to manage to stay firmly on this side of the fence.

Working shifts enables you to:

  • Beat traffic
  • Get stuff done during off-peak times (banking, grocery shopping, exercise)
  • Can work well with your body clock

On the other hand, shift work often means:

  • You aren’t able to use public transport, depending on your exact shifts and where you live.
  • Wreaking havoc on your social and personal life
  • Messing with your body clock – you might feel that you have fewer hours to operate in when your routine is constantly changing and you’re always struggling to keep up
  • You can’t commit to certain extra-curriculars with fixed schedules

 When I worked Wednesday-Sunday, I pretty much never saw T, and the time we did have together was NOT quality time. I was getting paid well and racking up great work experience, but didn’t have much of a personal life. Monday and Tuesdays were my chance to breathe and catch up on things, usually consisting of: a cathartic run, some guitar practice, some reading, cleaning our little house, baking, making lunches for the week, and leisurely walks to the fruit and veg shop to pick up fresh produce. (Those days always went far too quickly.) And when we lost a few staff and I started having to rotate across various shifts pretty regularly, I felt like I had even less time, with the constant disruptions to my schedule. Life in the 9-5, however, means I sometimes actually almost have time to be bored! (I never am; there’s always something to do, but I technically *could* be legitimately doing nothing.)

There’s another benefit to industries that operate round-the-clock, year-round, though. When your company doesn’t shut down over Christmas, thus forcing you to take 2-3 weeks off when EVERYONE ELSE in the country is on break, you have more flexibility to take your holidays when you actually want to go away (particularly useful during winter). I used to volunteer to work public holidays quite frequently, or at least not whinge about being rostered on, because I’d rack up extra pay simply for being there – time and a half, legally, and I think those of us who were union members received double) as well as an extra day of leave to bank.

What kinds of hours do you work/would you prefer to work?

11 thoughts on “The pros and cons of shift work

  • Reply Cassie March 14, 2013 at 08:03

    I’m currently a shift worker, and I’ve been working shift on and off for the last 7 years or so. The upside is that at noon I can sit at home in my housecoat eating a leisurely breakfast and commenting on blogs. The downside is everything else you’ve mentioned. I don’t get to see my bf during the week, I frequently miss out on social events, the switching back and forth between shifts is hard on the body, and I can’t sign up for sport activities or crafting classes 🙁

  • Reply sharon March 14, 2013 at 09:56

    My favorite shift I ever worked was as a ballroom dance instructor. My day started at 1 in the afternoon and we finished up at 10 pm. After that I was either practicing for a competition until midnight, or going out salsa dancing until 2 am! And no matter what time I got home I could always sleep in until noon and still not be late for work. 😀 Right now I’m in school from 9am -1pm and working as an AVON representative. The school hours are great and I love being able to make up my own schedule.

  • Reply krantcents March 14, 2013 at 10:45

    I never worked a shift other than day shift. My problem was I was on salary and I worked 50-60 hours a week. I like my current career schedule where I start work at 7:50AM and quit at 3PM. I nly actually work 4.5 hours a day. I am a teacher who has a lot of holidays and summers off unless I teach summer school. I feel like I am in semi retirement.

  • Reply Country Girl March 14, 2013 at 15:11

    I’ve always been a day shift sort. I’m not sure I could even do an afternoon shift, let alone a night shift. I can barely stay up past ten. All the power to those who can do a night shift, it’s good to know there are people out there who aren’t asleep at the controls 😉

  • Reply Amanda March 14, 2013 at 15:18

    I hated shift work as a waitress in Melbourne’s casino (my only shift work ever). I generally got given 8pm-4am on a Friday (they gave that shift to all the students), and it ruined me for the rest of the weekend.

  • Reply Tony@WeOnlyDoThisOnce March 14, 2013 at 15:22

    Great pros/cons analysis, and with good objectivity. Not sure where I land, but thanks for an interesting read.

  • Reply KK @ Student Debt Survivor March 14, 2013 at 15:48

    When I was working nights I almost never saw the bf. We were like two ships passing in the night. It was terrible and I did it for 3 years. Now that I’m working 9-5 again, it really makes me realize how much I lost out all those years. Live and learn.

  • Reply Glen @ Monster Piggy Bank March 14, 2013 at 16:48

    I used to do shift work when I was at college, but I couldn’t do it long term and so as soon as I got a full time job (not shift based) as soon as i finished studying.

  • Reply Untemplater March 14, 2013 at 19:33

    I usually work 8-6 for my primary job and then evenings and weekends whenever I can squeeze in time for my side gigs. I like having a set schedule for the majority of my work although it would be nice to take longer lunch breaks.

  • Reply The Norwegian Girl March 15, 2013 at 04:28

    working shifts isn`t for everyone, but for some it works quite well! BF works shifts, but I don´t think I would work shifts, it would make things a lot more complicated. But then I am going to be a teacher, so I won`t need to worry about that!:-)

  • Reply Updates: March 10 – 16 | The Outlier Model January 18, 2014 at 08:20

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