Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Shifting Gears

I've now been working on a shift pattern for nearly a year and a half and I thought this might be a good opportunity to discuss some of the pros and cons of the role.

When the position at my employer's was advertised internally I thought about it for a while before applying, and decided that the opportunity to work a four day week for an initial period of six months would at least be worth trying. Having an additional day home could help with childcare, and testing it while Lorraine was still on maternity leave seemed like a good idea. Maybe it would have a detrimental effect on my social life, but then I remembered I don't have a social life, and so I decided to apply for the role. My interview went well and I was offered the job.

The biggest change for me is in regard to time taken getting into work. We moved buildings in May 2011 and with that our team members got the chance to park in the car park at our new premises. For a day that started at 8am I used to have to leave the house at 6.25am to get the train in. On the same day I would finish at 4.30pm and get in at 5.45pm. Now I leave home at 6.40am to start at 7.30am, and after a 7.30pm finish I get around for around 8pm. That saves me 90 minutes every day, and if you throw in the additional day I don't travel into the office it saves me a grand total of seven and a half hours every week.

(That doesn't even begin to mention how I prefer to travel by car and listen to podcasts while doing so. The disadvantage? I'm reading far less these days. The advantage back again? I'm not a hostage to ScotRail and all of their peculiar foibles.)

The next advantage is time off. We work a four-on/four-off pattern, which effectively becomes five days when you switch from days to nights. On the flip side of that, you effectively lose a day to sleep when you switch from nights to days, so it feels like you only have three days off. Of course that still puts you ahead of anyone who only has a two-day weekend. The plus side is that you don't always need to take holiday to get away, as my extended weekend down South last year was taken without the need to take any additional days off.

What about the working hours? Well weekday days are much same, although you start later and finish earlier. However nights and weekends are great, as there is less noise in the office and less interruptions from colleagues, which I find preferable. What I do tend to find is that by the end of the final shift I am really tired. Fitting 44 hours into four days is hard, but in some ways I don't find that any different from working Monday-to-Friday did.

I remember when I was studying in London and had a season ticket at Palace I could never have envisioned wanting to work on weekends, however I've now come to enjoy it. I get peace and quiet to work, and as an added bonus I don't have to wear the usual business casual dress for work on those days. Jean and trainers = winning! We also don't have the usual fight for fridge space, or a queue for the microwave (if we need to use it).

Don't get me wrong, there are some downsides. Working nightshifts in the winter meant I rarely saw daylight. If Lorraine is working on opposite shifts we don't see very much of each other. However probably the worst part is when your daughter asks you, "Dad are you working on Saturday?" and you have to tell her, "Yes, I'm afraid I am working". The look of disappointment isn't much fun to deal with, no matter how many times you get to take them to and pick them up from school.

You also have the problem of familiarity. Remember how I mentioned that switching from nights to days only effectively leaves with you three days off? Well you don't consider that when you've just started your job, you still see it as four days off. Furthermore you never compare shift allowances with those of other employers, while inevitably the passing of time and the voices of your colleagues lead you to do this.

However the good points clearly outweigh the bad points. I might have a working week which is technically longer, but I make up the time in what I save from commuting in a different manner. I may miss some weekends with my family, but I make up for the time in other ways. There aren't many Dads who get to take and pick their kids up from school, and I love being able to do that.

I can't guarantee I'll always feel like this, but right now I love my job, and it would need to be a seriously good offer to make me want to give it up. Now about that social life...
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