It's 3a.m. in the morning. You're out on the town on a Saturday night. You're drinking the night away and having the greatest time of your life. But have you ever wondered what's it like to work shiftwork? To be working when everyone else is partying and having fun.
When you think of shift work, what do you think of? To me, the first thought was of people who work in bars, night clubs and casinos. Upon a closer look there are many people who work shiftwork. From firemen, doctors, nurses, taxi drivers, security guards, police and pilots. The list goes on and on. The common connection amongst all these jobs and professions is that they are working odd hours. If you're entering the workforce and shiftwork is a requirement, or considering shiftwork and need some tips and pointers then this article will help you cope, survive and prosper.
Firstly some background. My personal experience with shiftwork has been working shiftwork at a casino. After 9 years of working shiftwork I want to share some of my own experiences and some things I have done to manage working shiftwork.
It was my first job working at the casino. I was 19 and just got a job in the bar. I thought it was the coolest thing. Serving drinks to hot girls and staying up and listening to music all night. I soon realised that the odd hours and long nights were taking its toll. I needed to manage myself better if I was going to keep and do my job and also enjoy a social life.
The importance of sleep
One of the first things you'd realise when working shiftwork is the important of sleep. You'd learn fast that sleep is a tax. Miss out on sleep and it soon catch up with you. I remember times when the hardest thing to do was not serving customers or doing job-related tasks but the hardest task was staying awake. This was awful as your body and mind can't focus and it only wants one thing. Make sure you get plenty of sleep BEFORE (not after) your shift starts.
The rotating roster
Of course it isn't all doom and gloom. Given the nature of the shiftwork you'd eventually get a dayshift. Believe me you'd soon prize this shift and consider yourself a normal person rather than a zombie at night. Depending on how your work is structured you might have one week where you work dayshifts and another week where you work nightshifts.
Given the changing nature of your shifts one of the best tips is to know your roster for the coming week.
In this sense you can plan and prepare and also get that important sleep you need. You can also then better fit in your social life and life outside of work.
If you don't organise yourself you'd find yourself caught unprepared. I remember saying to new people. "I bet you don't remember your next shift but you do remember your next pay!"
24 hour time
Another small element to shiftwork is that all your shifts are given in 24 hour time. Many people not used to this will find it confusing. For example, if I was given a 12 o'clock shift, do I show up at midday or midnight? Many new employees will surely make the mistake of showing up to work at the wrong time. As simple as it shows, learn how to tell 24 hour time.
Make two schedules
As you can see, a large part of shiftwork and coping with it is to plan your life and other activities around the odd hours. This may mean sleeping during the day or going grocery shopping at a different time of the week or day. With such changes one of the best ways to stay focused is to make and plan a schedule. This might seem hard, especially if you're on a rotating roster. You'd say to yourself 'My roster changes to much to make a plan.' A trick my friend showed me was to in fact make two schedules. One for when you have your day shifts and another for when you have your night shifts.
In summary these are but some tips to cope and deal with shiftwork. Shiftwork won't appeal to all people. To some of us, it's great and suits our lifestyles. Whatever the case knowing some small tips to better handle its demands will undoubtedly help you better cope and succeed in the workforce.
Until next time. Live curious.