The Shift Worker Survival Guide

Entering the world of shift work can take a mighty toll on you physically and mentally, if you’re not prepared. Do not be fooled by the travel benefits and the healthy sum of money sitting in your bank account, courtesy of the 4am starts. Though my three years and six months in the airline industry is dwarfed by most airline veterans, I can share with you the wisdom bestowed upon me when I first started as well as a few coping mechanisms I’ve devised along the way.


Nanna Nap


Nanna naps are critical to your survival as a shift worker. Being awake at odd hours in the morning is essentially working against the natural rhythm of your body. It’s absolutely vital that you refill the energy tank whenever possible, in order to keep your overall health and wellbeing in check. While the concept of napping might be foreign to you and a luxury that time poor individuals like yourself are unable to afford, squeezing in a 20-30 minute power nap will improve your mental alertness and help combat your fatigue. As invincible as you believe yourself to be, your body simply cannot run on an empty tank. If you are feeling drowsy, it is a wise idea to have a quick nap, before setting off to your next destination.


Snack Central


Store a handful of snacks in your locker at work as well as in your handbag. The hunger will creep up on you at the strangest times and if you’re anything like me, hunger is not an emotion that you can ignore. Trust me, the future hungry/grumpy you will be forever grateful. Nutritious nut or muesli bars make for an excellent snack. They can be eaten on the go without any mess and the long pantry life is an added bonus. These snacks should not by any means be a substitute for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but merely an energy boost to sustain you once the fuel light comes on.


Invest in a Quality Mattress


As a shift worker, every single minute of sleep counts. Tossing and turning in bed is time wasted and something we actively try to avoid. A restless sleep does not achieve the desired levels of energy nor does it leave you feeling refreshed and ready to conquer the day ahead of you. Don’t wait around for a mattress sale, invest in a quality mattress that will have your back for years to come. After all, investing in your sleep is an investment in your daily performance and productivity.


Replace Your Regular Latte With an Apple


As the saying goes, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. While those with a severe caffeine addiction will be violently shaking their heads at this ‘ludicrous’ suggestion, allow me to explain myself. Apples contain natural sugars, carbohydrates and fibre. Evidently, the health benefits far surpass those of a regular latte. The process of digesting glucose releases a steady stream of energy into your body, providing you with an early morning energy boost, without the dreaded caffeine crash.


Organisation is Key


A varied work schedule may cause you to lose track of your days, not to mention your sanity. Planning your social events and noting down weekly errands and to-do lists once you’ve received your roster for the week, relieves your brain from remembering a multitude of tasks. Organisation allows you to manage the day-to-day, often trivial tasks, without feeling overwhelmed about the seemingly endless list of to-do’s. As a member of the Gen Y crew, I’m partial to the digital calendar – my very own personal assistant who works 24/7, 365 days a year. His punctuality is impeccable and his loyalty is admirable. You can set friendly reminders to alert you to important tasks and events; these can be set up so that you receive them via email or as a pop-up on your smartphone screen. It is also a brilliant tool for those wanting to sync multiple schedules. For example, if your partner has an irregular roster, syncing your work schedules will enable you to plan more effectively and efficiently.


Juggling shift work with various other commitments – family, kids, university, social events – can be a challenge. But, making your health and wellbeing a number one priority and leaving behind the notion that you are an unbreakable machine, is integral to surviving this lifestyle.


Bio: Alexandria Phillips worked in the airline industry as a passenger services agent for over three and a half years, before entering the digital marketing world to pursue her dream career. She actively draws on her personal experiences to deliver content that resonates with her readers. When she is not madly tapping away at her laptop, she is cooking up a storm and travelling the world.

Ms. Career Girl

Ms. Career Girl was started in 2008 to help ambitious young professional women figure out who they are, what they want and how to get it.