How to Manage Shift Work and Your Social Life

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Working a shift schedule often means you’re out of sync with the normal, daily life activities of your family and friends. As a result you may be experiencing one or more these issues: 

  • Social isolation or loneliness for you or your partner.
  • Not enough time with children.
  • Missing events small and large, like birthday parties and graduations.
  • Decreased quality of your time with family and friends because you’re tired.
  • Moodiness or irritability with family and friends.
  • Conflicting parenting styles, or not feeling as though you’re a team as parents.
  • Sleep deprivation for you or your partner, because you wish to spend time together instead of sleeping on off-hours.
  • Difficulty coordinating or being part of family routines.
  • Difficulty making social or family plans. 

Here are ways to help you and the people in your life cope with shift work schedules: 


  • Create a visual schedule or calendar for your children, so they know what to expect. This is tremendously helpful. Explain very clearly when they will see you and do things together. Plan a weekly activity of special or routine things they can rely on and look forward to.
  • Plan breaks strategically, so that you talk to your kids after school or before bedtime. Phone calls are great as well as live video calls.
  • Keep small rituals in place, such as including handwritten notes in your child’s lunchbox each day.
  • Talk to your children and allow them to express their feelings about your absence 

Your partner and social life

  • Have open communication with your partner. Even if it’s for a small amount of time when you’re home together, talk without distractions (TVs, smartphones or other electronics).
  • Talk to other people who work shifts to see how they handle social and family life and share ideas.
  • Allow for transition time, or time to wind down, after getting off a shift.
  • Make social and family plans ahead of time, and pick a few important dates rather than overcommitting to many events.
  • Inform your friends and family. You need your sleep, just like everyone else. Sometimes that means that passing on social gatherings so