Friday, July 06, 2012

The trouble with night shift

We live in a world built around day shift. Much of the work world lives a 9-to-5 existence and thinks that's normal, ignoring the fact that many essential services that people use face-to-face, like banks and post offices*, are also only open 9-to-5, making it difficult or impossible for those working day shift to do business with them.

That's one of the advantages of working night shift. But night shift comes with disadvantages, too.

I hesitate to call what I've been working for the last few weeks "night shift." When I was working 6PM to 6AM, on my feet and running for twelve hours with a 40-60 minute commute on either side, that was night shift. Working 3:45PM - 12:15AM at a desk job five miles from my house is more like a "late afternoon" shift.

But in some ways it's more difficult to integrate this shift into my everyday life. When I was working twelve hour shifts with two additional hours spent on the road, it was pretty much understood that I would be useless for anything else those days. By the time I got home at 7:00 in the morning supermarkets were starting to open, so if I needed to grab some groceries I could.  After I got home I might spend an hour or so online, and I would have time to make an after-work snack and a before-work meal. But other than that I was mostly sleeping, getting ready for work, or taking care of stuff that couldn't wait until my off days.

Most supermarkets around here close at midnight, so now if I want to go shopping I have to do so before work, or on weekends when I'm trying to do everything else. My body starts to shut down pretty quickly after I come home. It's easier to power through 2:00 in the morning by working than it is to stay up at that hour when you're winding down after work. I'm usually in bed by 3:00. It would be like someone working a 9-to-5 shift being in bed by 7:45.

...and then I'm expected to be up by 9:00 in the morning. The world is awake, I'm "off," as far as everyone else is concerned, so why shouldn't I be up and doing things? To use the 9-to-5 analogy again, this would be like being up at 1:45 in the morning - and being expected to take care of everything that needs to be taken care of.

For me, in effect, the period of 9:00 to 3:15 is my morning and my afternoon combined into one. I'm expected to be up and at 'em, doing the things a 9-to-5 worker might do on a day off. And I do. But now other stuff is suffering. The stuff a person working a daytime shift might get to do after work is looked upon with disdain. I'm barely blogging anymore, and I haven't written anything for my writing group for weeks. 

This is a shift I chose. I knew what I was getting into, but other things have happened since I chose this shift, things that are putting other time pressures on my daylight hours.  And this is not the worst shift I know of, not by a long shot. I know someone working a shift that starts somewhere in the early morning hours and ends close to mid-day. And the expectations on that person are even greater.

So, give a thought to the night shift worker. Respect their sleep time, and recognize that the fact that they're not working during the day doesn't mean that they're "off."

*I can hear the moaning now: "Who uses banks and post offices anymore? Just old stupid people with AOL email addresses who use phone books to look up phone numbers! Why should we care about them?"


hedera said...

Sorry to hear you're having trouble. Hang in there!

Michelle D said...

I wonder who that person is....

Gort said...

Welcome to my world. I like the night shift.