Off with a new start
I graduated and began my first true career in corporate America. I started in May, had five weeks of on-boarding and was thrust into the jaws of Third Shift. As soon as I started the shift, I noticed my excitement of the new job dwindling rapidly. In an effort to reinstate the honeymoon feelings of the new company and people I found myself surrounded by, I took to researching the best ways to cope with the shift and life changes associated with it. I offer my feelings and findings regarding third shift and ways to tell if third shift would fit you well, and also how to navigate unseen challenges with success.
“I’ll never take sleeping at night for granted again”
Prior to third shift, sleeping took a back-seat to most other things I focused my time on. On day shift, I was plenty fine with getting four to six hours of sleep a night and continuing like that for weeks at a time. I also took very few naps and often found time for a cup or two of coffee a day. I worked out for about an hour and a half daily. When I did sleep, it was often restful and I woke feeling refreshed and energized.
The move to the night shift makes a remarkable contrast to day shift. Before choosing to work thirds, you may want to consider the following:
- Sleep may vary (as in you may not get any…)
I found and somewhat continue to find sleeping during the day to be challenging. I rarely find heading into work on 4 hours of sleep a surprise. Working 10 hours after that can get tough.
- Social life challenges (loneliness)
If your friends and family don’t work when you do, you may have a difficult time seeing them if you’re trying to get a fair amount of sleep.
- Quality of work may suffer
The human body needs sleep and sun to function properly; having a reduced amount of both these ingredients can really change your output at work. Consider your current output when you have little sleep versus your output when fully rested. Look into months with higher rates of production where the average quality of your work made you feel proud; what was going well during these times? Are those success factors going to be influenced by the shift change?
- Your personality
Are you extroverted and thrive in environments pulsing with human activity? What impact would a reduction in human contact mean for you?
- Short & Long-term goals
In operations-centric environments, organizations often bring new hires on to keep the company heartbeat from flat-lining at night. There are plenty of entry-level positions that require the entrant to participate on night shift for at least some time. If the goals at the end of a career path with a third shift requirement are something you strive for, you may have little choice but to work it. I’ve also hear anecdotal evidence of being a third shift resources improving your chances of getting hired for new, better positions with other firms.
Easing the pain of thirds
Improving your experience on third shift is possible! The most important attribute to having a positive first shift experience is to be disciplined in your time scheduling and planning. YOU MUST BE DEDICATED TO PLANNING if you are going to have the most success during the night.
Rest / Sleep Techniques
People often have trouble sleeping during the day. It is my opinion that no human should need to sleep during the day in order to stay up during the night – it simply isn’t natural. However, there are plenty of areas that “need” to be run during the night.
If the light tends to keep you up during the day, try shopping around for some black-out curtains Curtain Selection. If you don’t find it uncomfortable, a sleeping mask will do you just the same. If you’re lucky enough to be near a dark basement, setting up sleep-time in the basement is likely your best option… watch out for people walking above you though! That’s where ear plugs can come into play. There are a number of designs that may work for you, try to find ear plugs that don’t stick outside your ears. When you roll over you’re likely to shove them further in your ears than you want. I recommend the kind of earplugs you can mold to fit your ears so they aren’t sticking outside your head like weird antennae Earplugs.
I’ve found going to bed within the hour I make it home helps me fall asleep quickly and have a long sleep cycle. It also means I’ likely to wake up hours ahead of the time I would NEED to if I plan on making work on-time. This time allows me to take care of other aspects of my life. If I feel that I’m getting tired about an hour before work I often will take a nap during that time and then grab all my things and head straight in.
You’ll first need to try different sleep periods to see what fits best with your responsibilities and plans. When you find the schedule that works the best for you, it is important that you stick to that schedule. Plenty of people swap back to first shift on their days off, and if you can do it, go for it. But know you may sacrifice some of your health due to improper rest and interruptions with your body’s natural rhythms. I suggest sticking close to your work-week schedule when you’re on your weekend.
When I first started, all I heard and read about was melatonin. This product, along with several others, advertises that it’ll help you fall asleep faster and have a more restful sleep but be weary of your requirements. They often require that you allow for a set period of sleep; one that if you wake up early from may leave you feeling quite groggy.
I found the absolute best way to falling asleep and staying asleep is plenty of exercise. EXERCISE like crazy!
“Enough” exercise on thirds is often higher than what you’d need on day shift. Any way you choose to do it, exercising will help you to feel more tired when it actually is time to sleep. It’ll help you stay awake if you’re getting tired at 3am… even fifteen minutes of walking can go a long way to keeping you awake once you’re drifting in your cube.
What to eat
Third shift also limits all of your “hot-lunch” items as most restaurants you would typically patronize are closed. Modifying your diet and the schedule of your meals can positively impact your relationship with thirds.
As usual you should be eating plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout your day. Keeping your meals light will also tune-down the feeling of lethargy you may acquire after lunch. While plenty of workers choose to drink energy drinks or hammer on coffee all night, you might be better off dropping the caffeine all-together. It’ll help you keep a steady energy level and won’t affect your sleep patterns when you’re off. Try decaffeinated coffee and herbal tea instead!
The timing of your meals can also impact your sleep. Thinking about our upcoming Thanksgiving, people often think eating full meals shortly before bed will help them to sleep. The truth is that while a large meal may make you sleepy, it can lead to poor sleep as your body digests the food. Further, having all kinds of calories in you while you sleep typically lends itself to increased levels in body-fat. I find that eating dinner at work actually helps significantly. I’ll typically eat the last hour of my work-day.
Getting others on board
Unless most of your family and friends also work thirds, chances are they won’t understand why you must schedule your life in the ways you do. This can lead to a frustrating disconnect with the people you always want to see and enjoy being around. As you meet with them, give them an in-depth synopsis of what you working third shift means for them. Having them understand your phone is going to be set to silent during the day can go a long way to helping them plan with your schedule. Expressly state the best time for people to reach you when you’re making appointments.
If you live with others that don’t work at night and are up during the day, set some ground rules for noises while you are sleeping. Compromising on volume and activity limits is a great way to reinforce your schedule’s needs into others’ calendars. Depending on your relationship with room-mates you might even be able to have them wake you up when you need to; this means you can use earplugs without the fear of missing your alarm while the others can typically be a little less careful with their volume during the day.
The perks of Thirds
For all the negativity that surrounds third shift, it isn’t without its accolades.
- Relationship building
Since you’ll be working with others that are experiences the same challenges associated with third shift, you may find yourself connecting with these people on higher levels than other day shift coworkers.
- Shift Differential
Third shift typically come with more money in the shape of a shift differential. You’ll likely get paid an additional percentage of your rate during specified hours or even for your entire shift. Is the additional cash inflow enough compensation for your life change?
- Cost savings
With few stores open during the night, you may find yourself saving more and more money since you really won’t be awake to spend it. A word of caution here is that you may find yourself paying more for conveniences so that you can get to sleep earlier or wake up later. If you schedule properly, you should be able to avoid that extra spending!
Third shift is doable and, if you don’t need to be on it for much past a year, should be held as a fine alternative to day shift if you’re willing to make sacrifices in your social-life.
Share your thoughts below!