Career Magazine

The Pros and Cons of Shift Work

Posted on the 13 March 2013 by Eemusings @eemusings
pros and cons of shift work

By: Phil and Pam Gradwell

As some of you might recall, I worked shifts 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, it 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?

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