How to Adjust to a New Shift
While the first shift may be the most desirable shift for most, many companies are moving towards an around the clock operating system — and we already see it in the healthcare and manufacturing industries. This is great for our economy and provides more job opportunities, but what are the logistics of switching to a new shift? Second and third shift work can be desirable for a number of reasons: More time during the day to get errands done, the ability to be home when your kids are home, an/or being able to coordinate with the schedule of your spouse’s job to avoid the cost of childcare. But, what happens when you find out on a Friday that you are starting a new shift on Monday? Short notice threatens so much of the reliability of our routines. Whether you are switching from first to third, third to second, or second to first, there are bound to be issues and inconveniences that make the change difficult. Here are four quick tips to keep in mind as you adjust.
- Get enough sleep. The first thing you want to do is establish a strict sleep schedule. Exhaustion can be very dangerous in the workplace, so it is imperative that you get enough rest. Dark curtains in your bedroom, or around your house, can help calm your body and re-adjust its natural circadian rhythms so that whenever you need to sleep, you can. Another bit of advice is to not underestimate the power of a nap — particularly if you find out about a last-minute or short-notice shift change. You might not have the luxury to allocate to an entirely different sleep regiment, but you can at least get as many hours of rest as possible. Sleep helps improve productivity and overall focus.
- Avoid distractions. Of course, everyone should have a life outside of work. Whether it is a hobby or socializing with friends, spending time with family, etc. — there are going to be plans you make and things to do. That being said, as you work to try to adjust to a new shift, it can be helpful to limit some of these distractions and set boundaries with your time. For example, let’s say you find out on a Friday that your shift for Monday has been changed from third to first, but you already have plans on Sunday night with friends. You don’t necessarily have to cancel them, but be willing to adjust them and realize it would benefit you significantly to not stay out late. Other distractions might include screen time, video games or television and the same theory applies. You don’t necessarily have to stop your habits, but you should understand how they hinder you.
- Plan your meals. Night-shifters often fall prey to snacking during shifts to help stay awake, but rather than reaching for a donut or a pop with high sugar content, consider almonds, black tea, or fruit. These items will give you a more sustained energy burst that will carry you through. In addition, when you are done working the temptation may be to eat a big meal, but instead ask yourself if you are hungry, or if your body is just tired — in which case instead of eating, it might just be a good time to go to bed. Planning what you’re going to eat ahead of time allows you to feel more prepared and be nourished. Accommodating for things like food and water (hydration is key!) at random intervals can add stress and chaos to an already difficult circumstance.
- If all else fails, use (don’t abuse) caffeine. The first couple weeks of adjusting to a new shift may be difficult and it might be tempting to reach for caffeine as a way to “power through.” Try to limit your ingestion of energy drinks or other sugary substances — the stimulant they create is quick but short-lived. If you must use caffeine, coffee can be a good option but consider alternating between black and green teas. While caffeine is a good and sometimes necessary means to stay awake or feel motivated, there are a lot of risk-factors to its overuse, including heightened anxiety, heart rate, and insomnia. In addition, make sure you are staying hydrated. If you are well hydrated with water, your body can usually get through just about anything.