A lot of positions in power plants, upgraders, manufacturing plants and mining are based on shift schedules to keep the business running all day, every day. Most of the time, workers’ schedules rotate on these shifts so that nobody has to work only nights for months and months at a time.
Although shift work can be rewarding and break ruts and routines, it can be a challenge both physically and mentally, especially as you’re starting out on the new job.
Here are some of our best tips to make the transition to shift work and between shifts easier for you and your family.
- Adjust your wake-sleep cycle
One of the most frequent challenges of shift work is sleep. Think of the last time you missed a night’s sleep because of illness, a plane to catch or having to drive all night. It’s pretty hard to stay focused and alert the day after, but sleeping is hard since your body is not used to resting during the day.
This is also what happens during shift work. Several studies have identified something called “shift work sleep disorder”, a sleep disorder where people who work shifts suffer from insomnia while they should be sleeping and fatigue when they should be working.
There are several strategies to adapt your circadian rhythm to match your work schedule. This WebMD article presents a few tips and ideas to improve your sleep, thus alertness and productivity at work.
- Spend time with your family and friends
One thing that might go out the window as you rotate between shifts is spending quality time with the people you love, mostly because your work and rest hours don’t match, and because you need to catch up on sleep.
However, long-term isolation from your social circle may cause several issues down the road, including difficult domestic relationships, loss of friends, depression and anxiety.
Everyone needs help from their friends… even when they work the night shift. So share your shift schedule with the people who are important in your life and make sure to plan quality time.
- Eat well and exercise
When you work rotating shifts, even the slightest illness or pain can throw off your entire schedule and kill your productivity at work. Although it’s important for everyone to be healthy, it’s especially important for you.
Eating well means eating home-cooked food with plenty of vegetables, lean meats and whole grains. A good diet also keeps the “high-and-crash” effect of high-sugar, high-carbohydrate foods like those found in fast food restaurants and some parts of the company cafeteria, which may make you even sleepier during your shift. Bring a lunch you cooked or put together yourself, and your body and wallet will thank you.
Exercising is also crucial. It gives you energy and keeps your body functioning at its best. If you’re too tired after a shift, that’s fine; a lot of people with normal 9-to-5 jobs exercise in the morning, before heading to work. Walking is one of the best ways to exercise so walk with family and also make a point of touring the plant each shift.
Have you ever had to adapt to shift work? What did you do to make it easier on your physical and mental health?