Social life and shift work – Is it possible to maintain the two?
All shift workers know what it is like to be out of sync with normal life. Family and friends seem to be able to plan activities without a worry, and they want to include you, but you are too busy sleeping or working to join in to the fullest extent.
Trying to maintain family life, or any kind of social life becomes nearly impossible and the results can be painful, including any of the following.
1. Isolation
The feeling of social isolation/loneliness is common for shift workers. It can be related to you the shift worker, or your partner, as time together is limited and the pressures and stresses of shift working take their toll. Simply finding the time to be with other people becomes a major undertaking.
2. Not enough time with children or family
Many shift workers complain that shift schedule leads them to miss out on important events, and some smaller events too, from birthday parties and graduations through to days out in the park or a fish and chip supper.
3. A decrease in the quality of time you get to spend with family and friends
Because you’re so tired all the time, the time you do get with children, family, friends or loved ones is stretched. You end up moody or irritable, because you’re trying to cram a social life into too smaller time.
4. Fracturing of family life
Many parents where one is a shift worker suffer from a feeling that they are unable to work as a team, leading to conflicting parenting styles. Because you’re not both parenting together, but working in shifts. The result is that it becomes increasingly difficult to coordinate or be part of family routines or to present a united front.
5. Sleep deprivation for you or your partner.
Because you want to spend time together, instead of sleeping on off-hours, it can lead to you both becoming immensely tired, putting additional stress on the relationship.
6. Social plans pass you by
Because you’re always working when everyone else is playing, it becomes more and more difficult to include you in social or family plans. The result is that events get planned without you.

Ways to maintain your social life alongside shift work

Here are some tips that can help you and the people in your life overcome some of these issues, and help you manage shift work and your social and family life.  
1. Share your calendar
By creating a visual  calendar that sits in a prominent position in your home, your children and partner know what to expect. This can be tremendously helpful and can help to explain very clearly when they will see you and when you can do things together. You can also do this with My Shift Planner, by sharing your calendar with users of the app.
2. Plan ahead.
Plan a weekly activity of special or routine things children can rely on and look forward to, as well as planning and sharing your holiday time well in advance. Make social and family plans a priority, and pick a few important dates rather than overcommitting to many events.
That way, everyone can look forward to social and family time together.
3. Plan your work breaks
If you plan work breaks strategically, you may be able to talk to your children after school or before bedtime, or your partner after they have finished work. Phone calls are great, but live video calls are just as easy today, and it helps to see your children, and for them to see you.
4. Keep up the small thing
Small rituals can really help your relationship with your children and your partner. Handwritten notes in your child’s lunchbox each day, or left by the bed for your partner can really help. But maintaining the family and relationship rituals as much as possible can help keep everyone together.
5. Wind down time.
As much as you might want to, rushing from shift to social activity usually means that you don’t enjoy the social activity as much as you should. Allowing for a transition time, or time to wind down, after getting off a shift can help you be your best possible self for any family or social activity you have planned.
6. Sometimes you have to say no
Remember to tell your friends and family that you need your sleep, just like everyone else. Sometimes that means that passing on social gatherings so that you can sleep. Explain and make plans to spend some quality time with them when you’re well rested.
7. Talk to your loved ones
Open communication with your partner and your children about their feelings around your absences will open up new avenues for getting over the problems. Even if it’s for a small amount of time when you’re home together, talk without distractions TVs, smartphones or other devices.
8. Get advice from those who know best – your colleagues
You’re not alone. Lots of people do shift work, and there’s lots of advice and help out there. If you talk to other people who work shifts to see how they handle social and family life you can share ideas and come up with best solutions to help you keep your shift work and social life together.
Why not try our MyShiftPlanner app to manage your shift and personal life more easily? It’s making a huge difference to shift workers lives so give it a try. https://www.myshiftplanner.co.uk
 
For more information about shift work support, visit www.ShiftThinking.co.uk