After six years in the Philippine corporate space, I tried all sorts of unconventional shift schedules. There was a job I had that was more or less flex-time. I felt like I was on-call 24/7. I remember being on my annual solo soul-searching trip, exploring the city during the day, then remotely processing my scripts on cloud platforms at night.
I also tried working mid-shifts, starting at 3 in the afternoon and ending at midnight. Right now, I am working on a night shift since my client is in the U.S. Regardless of the unconventional schedule I’ve tried, here are the nine things I learned working outside the 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. grind.
1. There is no perfect work schedule.
Every shift has its pros and cons. There is no perfect shift that works for everyone. Night owls find the conventional 9-6 grind tedious since it’s hard for them to wake up early. Meanwhile, people who enjoy clubbing will hate working night shifts because instead of partying, you’re attending meetings.
2. The start time doesn’t matter; it’s the end of the shift that does.
I once signed an employment contract that mandated me to work from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, I had a heavy workload and had to work at least 12 hours a day, even on weekends, since there was just so much to do and so little time.
On the flip side, I'm on the night shift now, but when 6 a.m. comes, I don’t need to think about work anymore. There is a specific shift end and it is respected.
3. It’s not the shift. It’s the workload.
Bottom line, if your workload should be done by more than one person, you will work beyond your expected shift time. Regardless of when you start work, it’s the volume of tasks that determines how taxing it can be.
4. Night shift employees need to care for their health seriously.
While some people thrive in night shifts, there are still empirical studies that say there are long-term adverse effects on working at night for a person’s physical health and longevity. Because of this, I have been more cautious and conscious of my sleeping schedule and make sure to take my vitamins and supplements regularly.
5. Mental health issues can arise regardless of your shift.
I once quit a job for the sake of my mental health. I couldn’t bear the workload and the environment. I couldn’t stop questioning if it was indeed the right career path for me. I left that job without any backups. It was set on a dayshift.
I have friends who share their personal struggles on coping with their mental health. Their work schedules vary. The common reasons for their triggers are stress, a toxic culture and a lack of work-life balance.
Everyone knows that stress is one of the top reasons why people leave their jobs. Stress causes mental health issues and even causes severe physical illness when not addressed. I had jobs working conventional day shifts but I was getting sick often because of stress. In my experience, there is no direct relationship between stress and your shift—regardless of when you're working, mental health issues can arise.
6. The people you work with affect your feelings on shifts.
I once was part of a consulting gig wherein there was just one person I got to talk to from our team—the rest were clients. While this person was very nice and accommodating, it felt rather taxing to just talk to him day in and day out. When my shift ended at 6 p.m, I felt drained because I missed talking to a lot of people.
In my current role, I absorb the positive energy of the team I work with. We are a team of 15 and just engaging with them makes the work more enjoyable. When the shift ends at 6 a.m, I don’t feel as tired.
7. As you climb the corporate ladder, night premiums will matter less.
The biggest attraction to night shifts is the premium paid on top of your basic salary. For those starting out, a 5% premium makes a big difference. However, premiums can only be attractive at a certain point.
When you climb the ladder and the premium threshold is reached, accepting a job on the night shift will no longer be about the extra money.
8. You’ll learn to cope and adjust.
Human beings learn by doing and they adapt to any situation. Whatever job schedule you are in right now, if you’re determined to thrive then you most certainly will. A shift is not an excuse to perform poorly.
9. Shifts don’t define the job. Roles and responsibilities matter more.
When considering job offers, don’t focus too much on the shift schedule. The role and its corresponding responsibilities should always matter more. While shifts should be taken into account, don’t dwell too much on the time start and end. Instead, think about what you will be doing and learning.
Who knows? Maybe that gig with an unconventional schedule can propel your career to greater heights.
What's your no. 1 piece of advice for finding a schedule that works? Leave your answer in the comments to help other FGB’ers.
This article was written by an FGB Contributor.