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Shift work is part and parcel of working in social care or healthcare – and there are many pros and cons to be aware of.

The team at Outt.com champions care worker flexibility, allowing every candidate freedom of choice over which shifts they’d like (and which they wouldn’t!). However, even with your ideal shift pattern, it can take some serious juggling to make sure you’re making time for family life, and of course, yourself.

Here we’ll explore a few ways to structure quality time around your shifts and to make the best of your holidays and days off.

The Pros and Cons of Social Care Shift Work

As we’ve mentioned, there are both advantages and disadvantages to working shifts, whether they are night shifts, bank holidays, long days, or weekends.

Benefits of Working Shifts:

  • Higher pay rates are available for shifts, especially nights or bank holidays.
  • Parents can schedule work around childcare and school runs.
  • Working outside of peak rush hour can make travelling faster, cheaper, and a lot less stressful.
  • Consecutive days off, usually with around three or four days following a batch of shifts – giving more time to spend at home than the typical two-day weekend.
  • Teamwork, with the ability to pass over ongoing tasks to the next shift at handover – rather than needing to work late or rush to meet a deadline before the office closes!
  • Better career advancement opportunities. Social care managers are always seeking experienced shift workers accustomed to this work format.
  • Flexibility, choosing shifts, switching between days and nights, or deciding which times of the year you’re happy to work less social shifts.

The Downside to Shift Work:

  • Many shifts are longer than the average eight-hour working day – often up to around 12 or 13 hours at a time, which takes a lot of energy and focus.
  • It can be challenging to spend time with a partner, spouse or friends if you are working when they are sleeping – or start work very early in the morning or finish late at night.
  • Sleep disruption can be harmful to physical and mental health.
  • Potential security issues, particularly if travelling alone on public transport in the early hours.
  • Pressure to cover shifts even if you’re not feeling up to it if there is a staff shortage and an urgent shift requirement.
  • Loneliness if you work in an isolated way and miss out on the rapport and camaraderie that makes work an enjoyable part of our lives.
  • Missing out on kids school events or sports days if your shifts coincide with these activities.

We can see that shift work requires a careful balance – to mitigate those potential pitfalls and take full advantages of all the benefits on offer!

Let’s look at how you can organise your shifts to ensure you still get the downtime you need and juggle work around valuable family time.

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Juggling Family Life and Social Care Shifts

First, we’d say that some shifts aren’t for everyone. You aren’t obliged to work nights if you find it very difficult to regulate your sleep, and working with Outt.com means you won’t ever be pressured to work on a family holiday if you have personal obligations that come first.

Next, it’s all about being organised and checking in now and then to ensure your shifts are still compatible with your lifestyle and personal wellbeing.

We recommend:

1. Making a big deal out of family time

Quality time, where everyone is engaged, is far more valuable than being disconnected.

When families are always together, it becomes the norm. If you’re working shifts, which means you spend more time away, make sure all electronics are turned off, and you organise activities that you will all enjoy doing together.

2. Taking care of your rest periods.

Shifts can be perfectly manageable when you’re rested, healthy and well – and cause no end of knock-on problems if you’re becoming run down. An exhausted parent isn’t a happy one, so this is crucial to family life and your health.

Get proper sleep, hydrate, eat well, use your lunch breaks, catch up with power naps, and make sure you have days off booked in so you can rest.

3. Prioritising your partner.

If it feels like you and your partner are like ships in the night, it can become problematic if you miss the companionship so vital to a successful relationship.

Making plans for a date night, booking days off together, and setting aside time to talk are essential to keeping your relationship alive.

4. Planning things to look forward to.

One of the plus points to working shifts is that you’ll usually have more time off on consecutive days. A great way to optimise that time is to schedule fun activities

That could be a family picnic or BBQ, visiting relatives, playdates or trips out – planning something the whole family can look forward to will ensure everybody recognises that you aren’t working 24/7 and that they remain of vital importance to you.

5. Sharing responsibilities.

A tricky part of working social care shifts is coping with all the demands of family life and childcare, usually with a minimal amount of time on those days when you’re working.

Here’s where teamwork matters. Things like batch cooking meals for quick dinners, sharing chores, asking older children to help out with simple tasks like feeding the dog, and having an understanding about what each person will contribute can all take away the pressure and make sure you’re all working as a team.

You can also look at things such as wrap-around school care, with breakfast or after school clubs, asking nearby friends or relatives to help out, or scheduling sleepovers, so the kids are always content and well, even if you’re catching up on some much-needed shut-eye.

The key is to ensure your shifts work for you, so you’re able to deliver great care, without causing damage to your family or personal life.

For any advice about managing shifts or to browse through social care shift work vacancies, please visit Outt.com.