Shift workers often grapple with how to have a social life when working the graveyard shift. If you miss out on too many events in a row, it can take a toll on your happiness and add stress to your relationships. Night shift workers can experience bouts of feeling out of the loop or isolated from family and friends.
So how can you stay in the loop? I spoke with some night shift workers who have managed to balance their shifty schedule while getting enough social time. Here are their best suggestions.
Help your friends and family understand you’re on a different schedule. Explain that 2 p.m. for them is like 2 a.m. for you. Suggest times to get together that work with your work/sleep schedule. Try: “Let’s meet up for a bite before I head in on Friday night,” or “How about breakfast on Sunday morning after I finish my shift?” You might find that it takes a bit more planning to maintain relationships with loved ones who have conflicting schedules, but it’s worth it to keep those connections alive!
Be ready to socialize by using your time off when others aren’t free to take care of errands and chores. Prep meals, shop for groceries, pick up dry cleaning, or register for swim class during your downtime while your friends are working. Then you’ll be ready to meet up and party on once they’re off.
Embrace breakfast dates
Breakfast is a great time to catch up because it works with almost anybody’s schedule. You’re quitting the night shift at 7 a.m. and your friend starts her work day at 9 a.m.? Grab some sunny-side up eggs together at 7:30 a.m.! You both need to eat breakfast anyways. It can be a great time of day to touch base with your folks, catch up with a friend, or even go on a coffee date. Breakfast for the win!
Save up your vacation time
Save up as much vacation time as you can for holidays or special events with your favourite peeps. Obviously, this will depend on approval from your boss and whether others have first dibs on those dates. But asking for time off as soon as possible can increase your odds of making it to weddings, rock concerts, pie-eating contests, or whatever events are important to you.
Find others with similar schedules
To keep your social circle full, seek out new friends with similar working hours. Look to meet people in your same industry or other industries with unusual working hours—restaurants, hotels, emergency response, hospitals, security, etc. They might have a similar schedule to you, and even if not, they’ll certainly understand the challenges of having a job with unusual hours. Chances are that they’ll be game for pre-work gym sessions, post-work breakfast meetups, or Netflix marathons on turnaround days.
Keep it short and sweet
If your family or friends are having a party that you want to attend, make sure to sleep the entire time before it begins. Have your lunch packed, your clothes laid out, and your work bag ready to go. Rest as much as possible, then pop in for some socialization before heading off to work. In my experience, I can often attend events—but just the beginning. I stop in, say hello, grab some food, and then sail off to work. I usually make it clear when I accept an invite that I’ll need to dine and dash to get to work, but most hosts would prefer you come for a short time than not come at all.
The beauty of email is that you can write a bit whenever you have time, add to it later, and send it any time of day without waking anyone up. Personally, I used email while working nights to stay in touch with my best friend in another city and my aunt in another country. It would be almost impossible to find frequent times to call or visit her with our mutually hectic schedules, so we stayed in touch pen-pal style. I often had short quiet periods on the night shift, so I’ll type up an email at 4 a.m. to bring them up-to-date. They wrote back when they had time. We swapped recipes, sent photos, and shared stories. It’s a small thing that kept us close despite conflicting schedules.
Use tech to meet up
When making plans with good friends who work traditional hours, use scheduling apps to find overlapping time between your schedule and theirs. This takes the guesswork out of your availability so you can focus on planning what you’ll do for fun instead of when you can find a few hours when you are both awake/available. (Obviously, this works best between friends who share a love of agendas, highlighters, and colour coding. In my experience, it works less well with loosey-goosey folks who prefer last-minute plans.)
Night shift workers don’t need to resign themselves to a lonely existence of working strange hours and sleeping during the day. A little extra effort can ensure that working nights does not prevent you from having an active social life. How do you maintain a healthy social life while working nights? Tell us below!