When it comes to working hours, shift work creates numerous productivity advantages — but it also comes with inherent risks. In particular, workers on the night shift have to deal with the pros and cons of working odd hours while also attempting to preserve their work-life balance; such a drastic change of schedule can work both ways, after all.
In order to weigh everything up equally, here are the main advantages and disadvantages of working the night shift.
As mentioned previously, there are several advantages to working the graveyard shift. It’s perfect, for example, if you happen to be a night owl.
Here are 15 pros to consider:
1. There’s less traffic
If you drive to work, then you’ll know how frustrating rush hour traffic can be. On nights, though, the roads are deserted, meaning you spend less time parked in gridlock and more time at home with your family/PS4/Netflix (delete as appropriate). You’ll also save money on gas, as your driving will be more economical.
2. It’s more convenient
If you have errands that you need to run or important deliveries that you need to receive, then the daylight hours are your oyster. Of course, you’ll still need to catch up on sleep, but if you want to spend the day in the park or you have the luxury of picking up the kids from school at your leisure, then you can. You also have an opportunity to see your loved ones more often, too.
3. You’ll get paid more
Working nights has a significant impact on your lifestyle, and so it can be difficult for companies to attract staff. As a result, most sweeten the deal by offering more money for the night shift. In some companies, your salary could even be doubled, meaning you’ll have a great opportunity to save up some cash.
4. You can go back to school
If you want to pursue further education, the night shift makes it easier for you to attend classes and meet tutors during the day. Working nights can be a great short-term solution while you gain the qualifications to move elsewhere, while if your shifts are quiet, you’ll be able to get plenty of studying done on the job, too.
5. You’ll be provided with more job opportunities
If your hours allow it, your job is not too demanding and you have the energy to remain focused, then it’s entirely possible to work another part-time job during the day, whether it’s a side gig or a more serious role. Alternatively, you could start a side business and use the time to oversee and manage orders.
6. There are fewer meetings to attend
Most companies hold their meetings during the day. Working the night shift saves you the time that you would have otherwise spent at these time-consuming gatherings, allowing you to pay more attention to your work and less attention to daydreaming out the window.
7. There’s less competition
In most cases, there are fewer people working nights; this means that there are fewer people to compete with, too. You can use this as an opportunity to shine and climb up the ladder faster.
8. It’s good for your development
Another benefit of fewer people being around is that you will have to double up on your responsibilities, allowing you to learn new skills. Often, you will also have to deal with problems on your own, too, as there is no one else to assist you; this helps you to gain more experience.
9. You’ll have more time on your hands
Once you are familiar with your schedule, you can create time to attend to other things besides work. For example, you may have more time to go to the gym or take up a new hobby during the day.
10. There are fewer disruptions
The night shift has fewer disruptions from micromanaging bosses or difficult coworkers, meaning that you can relax, focus and pay more attention to your work. In turn, this will boost your productivity and reflect well when your annual performance review comes around.
11. It could help you save money
According to a QuickBooks survey, 39% of workers spend between $5 and $10 for lunch on workdays, for a total of up to $2,600 a year. Add another $2,000 a year for coffee (yes — you read that right), and ordering in becomes quite the expensive habit. The good news is that if you work nights, most shops around you will be closed, minimizing temptation.
12. Night shift naps are acceptable
If a daytime worker is in desperate need of a nap, they’re often up against bright sunlight and noise. For night shift workers, though, the dark, quiet nature of twilight decreases the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. This is important, as power naps can boost alertness and performance.
13. It could make your kids happy
Though a lot of the time night shifts take a toll on people’s social lives, they can work well for parents.
If your partner works during the day, for example, while you work at night, then your kids get to spend time with both of you. Not only that, if one of you is always around, you can save on after-school programs.
14. You’ll form stronger bonds with your colleagues
As work teams tend to be smaller through the night, bonds between colleagues can become a lot stronger. When it’s just you and a few other souls around while the city sleeps, camaraderie develops, which can increase job satisfaction and decrease stress.
15. You can exercise autonomy
If you enjoy working more independently, the night shift might be right for you. While you can have several managers on duty during the day shift, at night, you will probably only have one. This trains night shift workers to work more autonomously and encourages them to make more decisions.
As enticing as those reasons are, there is, of course, a downside to pulling all-nighters. Here are the cons of working the night shift:
1. You’re more prone to health problems
Human beings are not naturally nocturnal; our bodies are programmed to rest at night. Altering this pattern can leave you feeling exhausted and moody, while adjusting your sleep pattern can cause stress, an irregular heartbeat and even cardiovascular complications for people with a weak heart. Reduced social interactions can also negatively affect your mental health.
2. It can be boring
Due to a reduction of activity at night, you get to work in a quiet environment, both within and outside your place of work. While this might be perfect for some people, though, it’s a nightmare for others; if you enjoy the hustle and bustle of a busy day, the silence of a night shift job might bore you. It might also make you drowsy.
3. There’s reduced access to food
Accessing food at night is not easy. You have to compromise and eat whatever snacks you’ve bought with you, which limits your options, especially if you are trying to stick to a healthy diet. The night shift also disrupts your body’s eating schedule.
4. You’ll take lunch and tea breaks at your desk
Unfortunately, you’ll probably have to spend your breaks at your desk, as well, as you cannot leave it unattended. Staying at your desk limits your mobility, and it can lead to long-term health complications. Aside from a few stretches, you also deny your body a few minutes to relax.
5. It might cause family friction
Your own schedule will undoubtedly contradict your family’s schedule. Your work hours can make your family feel neglected, especially if you have young kids who do not fully grasp the concept of work.
6. You’ll have difficulty sleeping well
There is no guarantee that you will sleep well during the day. There are distractions and people that need your attention. Additionally, during summer, the light and the heat can make it hard to get good-quality sleep for eight hours.
7. It’s not very safe
Traveling to and from work exposes you to many security threats, as most crimes occur at night. If you are a security guard or you work for an organization that is likely to be targeted, then you can be particularly vulnerable. Consider, as well, that your workplace is also more prone to a break-in at night.
8. The weekends become meaningless
Staying awake every night affects your body’s ability to adjust accordingly during weekends. Therefore, any disruption to your schedule — such as trying to stay awake all day and sleep at night — can have painful results and affect your health in the long term.
9. Your vigilance will be decreased
If you fail to observe a strict sleeping schedule, lack of sleep affects your vigilance, which means that you might have a hard time concentrating on your work. This can lead to costly accidents, sloppy work or, in some cases, even injury.
10. You won’t have access to support services
Most departments close at night, making it difficult for you to access support services during your shift. Lack of such services can make you waste a whole night of work if something goes wrong, potentially affecting deadlines and derailing projects.
11. It can get really lonely
Working at night means interacting with fewer people, both in the workplace and outside of it. Whether you work in a warehouse, hospital, or drive-thru, your team will be smaller, and you won’t get as many people popping in and out. Likewise, if most of your friends work during the day, it will be tricky to pencil in some quality time with them.
12. You’re more likely to gain weight
Evidence shows that working the night shift interferes with your hormones. With the body producing less leptin and more cortisol, you are at an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and metabolic diseases, even if you maintain a healthy diet.
13. You won’t get much sunlight exposure
You’ve probably heard of vitamin D being referred to as the happiness vitamin. Produced in the skin during sun exposure, vitamin D provides a range of health benefits, including mood regulation. When you’re asleep during the day and up when the sun is gone, you become more prone to depression, fatigue, and a weakened immune system.
14. You’ll miss out on a lot of events
Most of the time, concerts, plays, gigs, and parties happen at night. For night shift workers, this translates into a series of missed opportunities for experiencing memorable events. Coupled with the lack of socializing that comes with the night shift, this can lead to an intense fear of missing out, at best, or debilitating loneliness at worst.
15. You’ll experience more anger
We commonly associate jet lag with airplanes, but night shift workers experience it, too. This is due to their circadian rhythm becoming dysregulated from sleeping during the day. As a result, those who work through the night are often more irritable, which is exacerbated by the heavy consumption of caffeine they must rely on to get through the day.
Looking at the pros and cons of working the night shift, the preference for either of the two ultimately varies from one individual to the next. Ask yourself what your short- and long-term career goals are before making a decision, as well as how much the change is likely to affect your personal life.
Have you ever worked the night shift? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments section below.
Originally published 13 March 2019. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.