Shift Work: How to Make it Work for the Family

Growing up with a father who worked rotating shifts in a factory was difficult. Working shifts while being married was tough. Any worker who is assigned to afternoon, night or rotating shifts can tell you that it can wreak havoc on a family. Shift work has its disadvantages but, take it from someone who’s been there: if you approach shift work with a plan, it can work for your family.


  • Lack of Proper Sleep
    Humans are diurnal beings by nature.  We’re also creatures of habit who do best with a steady routine. Working shifts not only has us sleeping during unnatural times, it can disrupt our sleeping patterns, particularly when assigned to rotating shifts.

  • Lack of Social Life
    If you are assigned to a second or third shift, you’ll often find that you are working when others are socializing. This can put a serious crimp in your relationships. Too many ‘I have to work’ excuses will have friends slowly stop asking you to take part in activities.

  • Missed ActivitiesIf your children take part in sports or other after-school activities, shift work can make it difficult to attend their games, recitals and banquets.

  • Stress
    All of the above disadvantages can add up to one major problem: excess stress. Stress can, in turn, cause a lack of sleep, a foul mood and even depression.

    The disadvantages of shift work are many and can begin to lend themselves to a vicious cycle that you can’t seem to escape. Eventually, your entire family can begin to suffer emotionally. Fortunately, with careful planning you can make alternative schedules work for your family.

  • Communicate
    Write down your schedule on a family calendar and pencil in activities for yourself and the children. If your work allows, let children know they can text you or email you if they want to talk to you.

  • Record Events
    If you are going to miss your child’s event, have someone record it and sit down and watch the video together as a family.

  • Maintain Your Sleep
    Proper sleep is essential to your mood. Darken your room, wear earplugs, turn off the ringer on your phone and consider using a prepaid cell phone for emergency use only. Be sure that only very close friends and family have the number!

  • Utilize Online Scheduling
    If your employer offers online scheduling and you have a bit of freedom in your work hours, sit down as a family and gather input from your spouse and children. Even if you don’t have much of a choice, allowing your family to see what is open to you will go a long way in their understanding of why you must work an alternative schedule.

  • Listen
    No one wants to be criticized or listen to a barrage of complaints. If your partner or children are frustrated with your lack of time, sit down and let them air their grievances. They’ll feel respected and, in turn, appreciated.

Author Stacey Carrington is a human resources manager and also writes for, which offers an online nurse scheduler as well as other software for scheduling employees for small to large companies. This article was written by a guest author. Would you like to write for us?

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