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Your Workplace Survival Guide: Working The Night Shift

Updated on April 7, 2011

Daaaay Sleeper


It’s funny how of all of the workplace related manuals and instruction books I’ve come across; I just haven’t seen one that tackles that precarious subject of the third shift. And I don’t understand why. Not telling someone how to survive the night shift in a work place survival guide is like not having a chapter about contraceptives in a book about sex.


Now if there’s one thing I am an expert on, in just my short ten years in the workplace, it is the night shift. Also referred to as the Third Shift, the overnight shift, and “Oh my god, I’m so friggin tired, someone please shoot me”.

The Pros and Cons of the Third Shift


Why work the night shift? What kinds of jobs include a third shift?


Lets tackle the Whys and the Why Nots first.


There are some benefits to working the night shift. The biggest one in my experience is that most night shift workers make a dollar or two extra per hour thanks to time and a half. So whereas most day clerks at a 24/7 grocery store might make eight or nine dollars an hour, you could stand to make up to twelve dollars per hour, depending on your responsibilities.


Also, depending on where you work, very little else is going to be open all night. This means fewer spending impulses outside of a break room vending machine. Your paycheck will go right into your bank account and during the day, you’ll likely be sleeping so there will be even fewer opportunities to spend money on things you don’t need.


Lastly, the night shift is just the easiest way to avoid people. Most night shift jobs, you’re alone, there may be fewer or no customers and it may be just you and one or two other employees on the clock. For some people, this is bliss.


Now what are the disadvantages of working night shift? Boy, let me clue you in.


First off: Time frame. In places like grocery stores and warehouses, you will have a quota to fill in. Now, if you’re a fast paced worker that’s great, but keep in mind that you will be timed and likely marked based on how well you perform.


Also the responsibilities may be heavier on your shoulders. If you work as a residential counselor in a rehab clinic or a school for troubled teenagers, you may find that you’re the only person accountable if someone gets hurt in the middle of the night or tries to escape. So there’s very little margin for error in some night shift positions.


The opportunities for side sniping and bullying increase as well. If you’re the new guy on the night shift and your coworkers don’t like you, well, there are very few other witnesses if they decide to gang up on you and get you in trouble. And don’t think for a second that “customer compliments” will help you out in those scenarios.


While I’m on the subject of your coworkers, you will never have coworkers less reliable than on the night shift. While working as a night shift supervisor at Rite Aid, I once had the misfortune of being robbed at knifepoint. (I will write a whole other hub about what to do in a robbery)


Well, I made it through the rest of my shift. But the coworker who was supposed to take over for me didn’t read the schedule, and was not aware that she was supposed to be in that day. So I remained in the store for two whole hours, on my own, on the night that my life was threatened for the contents in my drawer.


And I was patently screwed, because if anything happened again, this time there would be no one there to call the cops.


Of course the biggest challenge of working the night shift is, you guessed it, sleep. And your sleep patterns will be disturbed.

Nine Times out of Ten the Night Shift won't be this Productive but...

Tips for Surviving the Long Hours Ahead

Most night shift positions have one thing in common: If you’re caught sleeping on the job, you will be fired. If this is your first night shift job, here are some basic tips for surviving the long hours ahead.

1: Stay Awake the Night Before.

If your first night is on Tuesday, stay awake on Monday. Stay up, read, watch TV, play your Xbox. Watch reruns of Two and a Half Men while you still can, because Charlie Sheen pretty much sank that ship and it’s the only chance you’ll have. Then just sleep your Monday away. Pop a Tylenol PM or a Trazedone if you have it because you will want to be as rested as possible.

2: No Music, No Light, No Noise

If you have a bedroom and the window catches even a shaft of sunlight, get some black out curtains. Make the room as comfortable as you can and block out all noise. If you have roommates or children, be sure to threaten them with death if they so much as think too loudly.

I rented a room from a lady with a teenaged son. My door was right next to the garage door and one afternoon, after a long night of stocking shelves at Hannafords, I heard her son, standing near my room, shouting for his friend. I never wanted to kill a minor so much as I did that day. Of course this is just the tip of a very large, very loud, very inconsiderate iceberg that I shared a living space with.

The point is: A night shift job will not be manageable if you have inconsiderate roommates living with you. So please make sure everyone knows that you need sleep, so that they can not use that as a proper defense should you discover that your restraint is not as good as mine was.

3: Caffeine, Caffeine, Caffeine

Make friends with it. Mountain Dew, Monster Coffee Drinks, Starbucks. If they develop a caffeinated IV bag, bring it to work with you. If you suffer from caffine allergies then drink water. Lots of water. Preferably vitamin water.

After a few weeks, you will need some kind of chemical assistance to keep your brain active. And there is nothing more effective than Columbia's Legal Narcotic to keep the gears running.

4: Wind Down Time

Make friends with this as well. When you get off of your shift at work, don't go to bed right away. Eat some breakfast. Do some laundry. Read a book, or take a nice hot bath. Whatever you do, get your mind off of work before you go straight to sleep.

Seriously, this will be the difference between getting the rest your body needs and waking up several times throughout the day, wondering if you're supposed to be at work or not. Even some yoga or light exercise can be helpful in times like this.

My mother usually took me to breakfast on weekends when she was working as a night awake counselor at a residential school.

What Kinds of Jobs Are Available on Third Shift

 The real question here is what jobs aren't available in third shift?

The possibilities are seriously endless. Security guards, hospital employees like orderlies, nurses and doctors, and almost all of the major institutions like schools and banks hire night crews for janitorial work. Major grocery stores hire night shift employees to stock the shelves and to ring register for customers who are also, tada, working the night shift.

Call Centers are also a popular job choice and require very little experience.

Check out the link to the right to see the Grave Keeper's Blog over at

In Conclusion...

 The night shift can be both challenging and rewarding. I wouldn't recommend it to my worse enemy, but if you have bills to pay and you're up to the physical and mental demands this position has to offer, then go ahead and give it your best.


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    • RachaelLefler profile image

      Rachael Lefler 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      I found this extremely helpful. I applied for a security position at my college that I really hope I get because I always have night-owl tendencies and I do most of my shopping online anyway, and I think I would like the convenience of dealing with people less because I have mild social anxiety and don't like being pushed and shoved in big crowded shopping areas. I like shopping at 24-hour stores late at night. I would like to take on all night-shift jobs in the future, possibly. But I guess first, I'll take this security job and see how it goes.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Not many customers? Um... apparently, you don't live near a college town. We're blowed away at night. My shift is from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. We actually don't slow down till 4 a.m.

    • thelyricwriter profile image

      Richard Ricky Hale 

      7 years ago from West Virginia

      You make some good points. This is a useful article since I will be on the night shift very soon.

    • rihsam10 profile image


      7 years ago

      great hub

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 

      7 years ago from North Carolina

      Rated it up and across the board -- Yes, and including FUNNY! OMG I could so completely relate to everything you wrote. I loved the opening paragraph about the manuel-and I affirm that necessity.

      How about this one: why are all of the mandatory staff meetings on day shifts for the night shifters??? Try to do the shift and THEN stay awake for another four hours for a 'mandated' meeting--how much is retained?

      Very cool hub.

    • NateSean profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from Salem, MA

      I don't know, but I'm glad you enjoyed it. ;) Hopefully some people get some insight as well as a good laugh. The workplace is definitely a place that's always going to need some humor in it.

    • DIYweddingplanner profile image


      7 years ago from South Carolina, USA

      Hysterical, why has no one commented on this very funny hub?!


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