What I learned after a week of night shifts

As I write this, I’m coming off a particularly difficult 9-day-in-a-row work stretch. I’ve worked as many as 11 days in a row before, but in my former department. My current position is much, much busier and more physically demanding than my other job, and I was woefully unprepared for how utterly exhausting this was going to be for me.

Oh, and last week, I was scheduled for five night shifts. I haven’t worked nights in forever other than my cafe double, in which I worked open to close one day/night a week.

I think the worst part was the weekend. I picked up a Friday day shift, which meant that I closed Thursday, then opened Friday. That wasn’t too terrible, because I got a bit of a break before closing Saturday. But then? Sunday rolled around, and Sunday began our extended holiday hours. So I closed Saturday, and had to be at work nine hours later (that’s Sunday morning at 7am). As luck would have it, it took me forever to settle down and get to sleep Saturday night. When I showed up for work Sunday I was not only exhausted, but in no small amount of physical pain. The morning was unbearably slow because no one knew we were open early. I thought I might cry at a few points during the day. Thankfully, things ran smoothly once business began to pick up.

I think I came home Sunday afternoon and literally slept all night. I’m not even sure I woke up to eat, and I know I didn’t shower. I had two more day shifts before getting to today. Those weren’t so bad, though.

Working nights has taught me a few things:

  1. Night shift is slower, but the vibe is much less stressful. It’s more relaxed and fun.
  2. Being a night owl, my body actually prefers this work schedule.
  3. Waking up with a few hours to spare gave me time to work on my house because I wasn’t yet exhausted, make and eat breakfast, get ready without being rushed, and run a few errands before businesses closed.

But also?

  1. Day shifts being busier means I burn more calories and get more physical work in, which clears the mind.
  2. My body may prefer night shift, but my mind prefers day shifts. Despite being able to do more during the day before a night shift, I spent most of that time with the dread of having to go somewhere hanging over my head. I’d really rather just wake up and get the job portion of my day over with.
  3. Days are longer shifts, which mean a bigger paycheck.

But my main takeaways were:

Even at my age, I still have the ability to work for many days in a row. However…they need to be days, preferably, or at the very least, either days or nights. Not an equal mix of both. And DAMN SURE NOT not a closing shift followed immediately by an opening one. My body simply can’t take that kind of abuse anymore.

I’ve noticed I’m all days until the Sunday after Thanksgiving. I’ll be coming in at 5am a few days, 6am a few days, and 7am for some. Then, the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I’ll be working till 11pm. That’s as far as my schedule goes, but when they do the next one? I really don’t want to see more nights on it. And I’d better not see a closing shift followed by an opening one, because that? Just can’t happen happen again.

4 comments

  1. Liz A. says:

    A night shift followed by a day shift? Yeah, in my 20s I couldn’t do that. I informed my bosses, and they didn’t care. One of the many reasons I hated that company. (They are now no longer. I was not sad to hear of their going belly-up.)

    Take care. Glad you’re getting the work, but I know how exhausting this time of year can be.

    • Kim says:

      Ugh, I would have hated that as well. If this next night shift (or any night shift I might be scheduled in the future) is followed by an opening shift, I’ll be respectfully reminding them that I can’t do that, and if they don’t listen to me, I’ll probably have to look for other work as well.

      That’s the best thing about this time of year in retail: there is plentiful work for those willing to do it. I’m willing, but my body is not. I hope it doesn’t become an issue.

  2. Abby says:

    Woo, that’s a lot of working – and a lot of “clopens”! I hope your work schedule settles down for you, but sounds like the holidays are going to keep things a bit crazy for a while.

    • Kim says:

      Thanks! The holidays will definitely stay like this, and I really am thankful for all the hours, because being retail means that those hours will dry up come about mid-January and not pick back up till income tax return time (usually late February-early March). Not a long time to have a lull, but I’m nervous because I have property taxes due here by the end of the year, currently due at my property in Memphis, the utility bills will become more expensive as it gets colder, and hopefully nothing catastrophic happens that requires more money.

      But Covid times are different – we may not have the lull we usually have between the holidays and getting back to “normal”.

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