Working 2nd Shift with a Family

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While many people think of 7-to-3 or 9-to-5 as a typical work schedule, the fact is that people are working at all times of the day and night. Whether you work in factories, healthcare, law enforcement and security, hospitality, or TV sportscasting, you may find yourself working second shift hours. Shift work looks a little different when you have a family, but it turns out to be a perfect lifestyle fit for many people.

What Are Second Shift Hours?

Second shift usually means an evening or afternoon shift, and the exact hours vary depending on the employer. Companies that organize work into shifts around the clock generally have a morning shift (first shift), an afternoon shift (second shift), and a night shift (third shift). Typically 2nd shift workers clock in between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. and clock out between 11 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Unless you were raised in a family with a second shift worker, or have worked that schedule in the past, second shift hours can require an adjustment. Yet it’s an adjustment that a lot of workers make on a daily basis.

Benefits of Working 2nd Shift Hours

People who work 2nd shift hours appreciate the alternative shift schedule for a variety of reasons.

  1. More pay. Companies often attract workers to the second shift schedule by offering a shift differential, which amounts to a slightly higher pay scale. The shift differential can add up quickly, and make a huge difference in family budgeting.
  2. Pleasant work conditions. On hot days, the temperature often cools down as the night goes on, so 2nd shift workers may appreciate the more comfortable work conditions. And for those who prefer to work without distractions, leaner staffing during 2nd shift means that workers have fewer interruptions while getting the job done. Anything that makes you enjoy your job conditions more usually translates to greater happiness at home as well.
  3. Eliminating a babysitter. Families may be able to avoid the cost of a babysitter and spend more time with young children if one partner works days and the other works nights. With young children, that often gives an opportunity for more bonding time during their earliest years. And if you’re a night owl, you can still maintain a sleep schedule that works for you.
  4. Easier to schedule appointments. Whether you or the kids need to go to the doctor or get your hair cut, it’s much easier to schedule during first shift hours.
  5. Easier commute. Working an off shift has advantages whether you ride the bus or drive to work. Avoiding the hassle of rush hour adds more time to your day and reduces the frustration you might feel sitting in traffic or waiting for a seat on the bus.
Rush hour commuting.

What Kind of Families Enjoy 2nd Shift Hours?

You’ll find a variety of opinions on working 2nd shift, because a lot depends on your family’s circumstances. The number of kids you have, their ages, your relationship status, your social network, and your distance to work can all make a difference in whether or not shift work makes sense for your family.

Perhaps you’ve worked second shift ever since you first started working. Or maybe your family worked 2nd shift when you were growing up. If you have experience with a 2nd shift schedule, it can be easier to see the advantages of shift work. And it helps you figure out how to get past the challenges. On the other hand, if a second shift job is a new work arrangement for your family, there may be some ups and downs as you adjust.

If you have a partner, a second shift work arrangement is most likely to be successful if you can have healthy discussions and work through solutions together. Acknowledge any feelings of loneliness, especially when you’re just starting out with 2nd shift hours. You will eventually find time for things you care about the most.

Downsides of 2nd Shift Hours

Of course, working second shift is not all fun and games. The alternative schedule poses some unique challenges for a family situation that first shift workers don’t have to think about. People who work a second shift schedule:

  • Can not be there most work nights for dinner with the family.
  • Cannot help their partner with transporting kids to afternoon and evening activities.
  • Often cannot attend kids’ sports, school, or church activities on weeknights.
  • May find it difficult to get to sleep when first getting home. Getting by on less sleep can be tricky, especially if your assistance is needed to get the kids to school in the morning.
  • Finding alone time with your spouse can be challenging. If he or she needs to get up early for work, it could be an unwanted, negative intrusion to disturb them when you get home late at night.

One way to think about a 2nd shift job is that it is often a stepping stone to a day shift, and it can offer more opportunities for fast advancement into other roles, if that’s what you want.

Tips for Balancing 2nd Shift with a Family

Working 2nd shift with a family may not always be easy, but it can make you stronger.

Father enjoying breakfast with his daughter.
  1. Enjoy the morning with the kids while getting them ready for school.
  2. Take care of chores like grocery shopping during the day. Prioritize taking care of household responsibilities like mowing the lawn or fixing the car during the week. That way you’ll have more time on the weekend to focus on family time.
  3. Share more of the family workload. People who work second shift tend to contribute more fairly to the family workload, which can strengthen their relationships in the long run.
  4. Carve out a healthy second shift sleep schedule and stick to it. Nap during the day if needed, and avoid caffeine and sleep aids as much as you can. Make a point of going to bed shortly after you get home from your shift. As aircraft mechanic James Schmidt puts it, “Don’t go home and watch a bunch of action shows on TV after work and expect to get up cheerful in the morning.”
  5. Make the most of weekends. That may require extra planning and communication to set aside special time with your partner and your family.
  6. If your work allows it, check in with a quick video call in the evening just before bedtime. Even a quick ritual helps you stay connected to the family and breaks up your shift.
  7. Take advantage of lunchtime to invest in your partner if they work first shift. Meet up for a weekday lunch or a stroll in the park, or run an errand together.
  8. Create a support network. When you have a reliable network of trusted friends, relatives, and neighbors that you can rely on in a pinch, balancing second shift hours becomes a whole lot easier.
  9. Eat a good lunch – perhaps leftovers from what your family had the night before.
  10. Learn whether it’s possible to swap shifts when you have an important family event. If you can, use that flexibility to attend kids’ sports events, school productions, and parent-teacher conferences.

Working 2nd shift hours can either be the perfect fit for your lifestyle or a serious hindrance. While second shift work may not be a fit for everyone, you may find that at certain stages of life, it works for you. Whether you’re working 1st, 2nd, or 3rd shift hours, with some adjustments you can make a happy, healthy life for yourself and your family.

  • Beverly Mapes

    Beverly is a business owner and operator since 2008 and is actively involved in the human resources functions and employee management of her team members.