Shift Work Often Beats No Work At All
Dear Dr. LeCrone:
After looking many months without success for the right kind of job, I felt forced to take a job that necessitates shift work. This job is going to involve considerable adjustments for me and my family. Can you discuss this topic?
— A reader in Ohio
About 15 million Americans work some kind of non-traditional schedule, including firefighters, factory workers and nurses. These hours can hurt the health of both the employee and his family.
Consider the following challenges:
* Shift workers’ schedules can make planning the family menu difficult, but try to eat at least one meal together each day. This time of togetherness is important.
* Household duties must often be performed when the shift worker’s sleep won’t be disturbed. It is best to adjust the home schedule and environment so the worker can maintain good sleep hygiene.
* Don’t assume that being tired, experiencing sleep disturbances and other health problems automatically occur with shift work. See your doctor if these problems continue.
If you must rotate shifts, do so in a forward fashion going from days to evenings to nights and then back to days. After your shift, allow yourself time to unwind before going to sleep.
* Try to follow desirable leisure time. Engage in sports, hobbies and recreation that you have enjoyed. Spend time with family and friends to maintain these relationships.
* Some people actually prefer shift work. After they achieve a healthy routine, they can see advantages — shopping when stores are less crowed; avoiding rush hour traffic; increased pay for shift work in many jobs; and the pace of the night shift may be preferable.
Making the best of a less than desirable work situation is possible with determination and planning from you and your family.
Talking about the effect of shift work on the feelings of each family member can help in this team effort. Making the necessary adjustments can help keep things running smoothly.
For those who prefer regular daytime working hours, try to remember: “With some hard work and time, I will try to get on the day shift. For now, shift work beats no work at all.”
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright © 2012