WORKPLACE / DEC. 16, 2014
version 2, draft 2

How to Work a Split Shift

Plenty of people survive split shift work -- but far fewer actually thrive. Whether you’re a restaurant worker, a factory worker, you work in customer service or some other industry that requires you to work part of your hours, take a break and then work the rest, the long days can really take a toll. If you’re not careful, your sleep schedule, your physical health, your personal relationships and even your career can suffer. If you’re just getting started with shift work -- or you’re considering taking a shift work job -- here’s how to do it right.

Make sure you’re paid what you’re due

In some places, such as the state of California, for example, shift workers are entitled to extra pay, earning one hour of minimum-wage pay for each split shift. Before you agree to take a split shift, find out whether there are any added benefits. If your employer doesn’t know, research the local laws yourself to make sure you’re getting what you’re owed by law.

Live as close as you can to work

Split shifts can be really inconvenient if you live a long way from work. It’s going to cost you extra money to drive or take public transport - even if you’re not going home in between, hanging out at a cafe or whiling away the time at a public shopping center means you will spend more money. If you’re not able to live close to work, ask your employer about providing a space for shift workers to relax, surf the internet or hang out between shifts.

Stick to a sleep schedule

When you’re working late into the night, it can be tempting to go out or to stay up late in order to have a social life. But depriving yourself of 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night is going to take its toll, and could lead to reduced performance at work. Not only that, but sleep deprivation can also result in irritability and strained relationships.

Work out in your off time

Regular exercise is important for anyone -- helping to ward off depression, decrease anxiety and offer an overall sense of well-being -- not to mention its benefits for preventing disease. For you, it’s going to help you sleep better and, while perhaps counterintuitive, it will also give you more energy. If your work break is in the middle of the day, performing exercise in the interim will help you beat the mid-afternoon slump that plagues so many other workers.

Rest is good too

On the flip side, don’t be afraid to take a short rest during your break time too. Short naps of even 20 minutes can leave you feeling energized and ready for the intensity of the rest of the day. If you have time for both a nap and a round of exercise, do the nap first, and then give yourself enough time to work out and shower before heading back to work.

Keep nutrition in check

To help fuel you through your busy days, be sure to eat well. Consume fresh fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals, complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, lean meats and fish for muscle-building protein, and healthy fats for optimal brain health.

Working shift work can certainly be challenging, but by taking extra care to protect your health and by reducing your commute, you’ll not only survive but thrive. 

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