Second or Third Shift Might be Better for You Than You Think

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With their against-the-grain hours and sleep implications, second and third shifts get a bad rap. However, these shifts aren’t to be avoided at all costs. In fact, many people find shift work is essential to their career and personal life.

Generally speaking, we consider the first shift to be an 8-hour shift that begins around 8 a.m., plus or minus two hours; making the second shift start around 4 p.m. and the third shift starting around midnight. Some employees are assigned to a fixed shift, and some employees are asked to work rotating shifts.

Second and third shift work is more common in some professions and industries than others. Those in healthcare, food production, law enforcement, and manufacturing are more likely to find shift work than others.

Benefits of Shift Work

There are numerous positive facets to working second and third shifts. Non-traditional work hours allow people to commute during off-hours, avoiding rush hour traffic and making for more efficient use of the day. Shift workers may also see financial savings if tolls and fares are lower during non-peak hours.

Those who work on second and third shifts can also take care of personal errands during the day. They can go shopping, take a vehicle in for repairs or take care of anything else while those on first shift are working away. This is benefit is even greater for those who happen to work weekends and have days off during the week.

Being off during part or all of the day can also make things easier for those who as caregivers, as it may be simpler to meet appointments. Those with small children probably have the most to financially gain from shift work as they can reduce or even avoid the cost of childcare. If someone working second or third shift has a childcare partner that works first shift, for instance, someone can always be home or available to care for children. If one partner works the overnight shift, they can put children on the bus and then sleep while they are in school, possibly picking them up before going back to work. The other partner can then provide care in the evening.

Shift work can also be beneficial for those who like autonomy and independence, as upper-level management and executives tend to work the same hours as first shift.

The Drawbacks

Full disclosure: Second and third shift work does have some negative effects. In particular, those who work overnights long-term are at higher risk for metabolic and cardiovascular issues. Shift work has also been linked to a higher risk of mental issues and poor sleep hygiene. Overnight work has also been linked to a greater risk of on-the-job accidents, due to decreased alertness.

Those working on second and third shifts should take these factors into account, and possibly consider shift work as a temporary part of their overall career path.

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