By Varun Joshi
Podcast by Akanksha Seth
Hope you all are doing great and are in best of your health. Well, I am here to share my experiences of working in night shift in IT firms; and take you through the journey of professionals combating with their night slumber, to meet the set business targets. You may say, it’s nothing laudable, but I say, come through other side of the table and when you see your clients as big hospitals, airlines, schools, etc. to which you have to provide the 24*7 software and network services, that too without a glitch, the task becomes heroic. As you are one of the many foot soldiers in the enormous task of ‘making the world go at its pace’.
We live in globalized world where consumption of services, products and entertainment goes round the clock. The current pace of mobility of information, goods and people, and especially the speed of their dissemination has made possible the delocalization of customer services to countries found in different time zones. From 1970 onwards, production and services have constantly been delocalized from countries like the USA, the UK or France, to India, Eastern Europe and other ‘developing’ countries where labour & skills can be procured at a cheaper rate. As a result, in addition to the regular service hours in these developing countries, more and more people in the workforce are supplementing the businesses by working at irregular hours.
That said, working in the destination countries for oversees customers has profound consequences on sleep, as companies tend to synchronize their tasks with the work schedule of the countries they operate for. However, just like a coin always has two sides, same goes with night shifts too. It has both pros and cons; the caveat being, night shifts do take a toll on an employee’s health. So, here I present a snapshot to you, into the lives of these night warriors.
Brace yourselves as you take a plunge into the night work-life! So, I have been working at night shifts regularly for the last 2 years. In the beginning, it was a fun activity with less number of people on board, and hence greater degrees of freedom to be oneself. Also, as I have already mentioned earlier, among the few pros of night shift the main ones are: allowance and interactions with the customer, which may enhance your opportunity of moving on-site (read foreign land). However, as “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day”, similarly, for developing a good interface with your off-shore customer it takes years of perseverance and meticulousness to achieve the dream.
Taking a look at the other side of the dream-fence: while making a career progression, we also build a big wall of illness that gets going with one for lifetime. Assuming that everyone wants to stay in fine fettle, while treading to greater heights, with night shifts unfortunately few of the major ailments that one might develop are: Alzheimer’s (memory loss), insomnia, lack of Vitamin-D, and sleep disorders. In worst cases, the benign form of these ailments may turn out as malignant and may even lead to risk of certain cancers and other metabolic problems. Additionally, people working in night shifts face not only mental and physical hazards, but also a cut-off from the rest of the world.
After working for 2 years, a substantial part of which was as night-shift, I have realized its pitfalls. While it began as a totally fun sort of thing, with quiet ambience and full focus driven work; absence of majority team in the office made me crave for people. The whole idea of having physical spaces of work is based on live discussions and team meets (which sounds like a distant dream, thanks to COVID-19) seems missing at night-shift. There are discussions, though, but lesser number of participants and hence fewer ideas. On the top of it, the whole biological clock of a person just reverses. In essence, his eating patterns go for a toss followed with the sleeping cycles. Basically, there are three major sequential transformations occurring in the employees’ sleep patterns who works in night shifts:
1. Desynchronization of sleep from the rest of society (esp. family, partners, friends and neighbours)
2. A secondary synchronization with those having a similar work schedule (mainly other employees and other marginal nocturnal social categories);
3. The slow and difficult process of resynchronization of sleep patterns with the rest of society.
For those professionals who are bachelors and hence renting accommodation, different work and sleep schedules altogether generate regular conflicts among room-mates. Arguments majorly centre on the noise produced by the employees on returning home after the evening shift, by their flatmates in the morning. For householders too, it’s the same rant.
All in all, it takes a person away from a social life and hence often termed as graveyard shift. I would personally not at all recommend others to volunteer for night shifts. But, if no option is left and you
have to follow the call of duty, ensure that you are prepared with these things:
- Your schedule must be flexible and incorporate good number of refreshments
- Plan for breaks in between of many days working as night shift,
- Engage your body and mind in exercise, on a routine basis, and
- Intake only healthy food (salads, juices, etc.; Big no to junk food).
These steps will help in mitigating the effects of night work shifts. Eventually, as the ultimate purpose of our life is to be happy and enjoy each work that we do, if night shifts don’t suit you, please explore the day shift opportunities.
Stay Happy and Healthy! Cheers!!!
The author is a network engineer working with Ericsson Global. His hobby is exploring new ideas pertaining to automation.