Hello and welcome to the blog today. I hope it’s turning out to be a happy Monday. I told someone at McDonalds this morning that Monday is a unique day because you can make it the start of a great week. 🙂
While daydreaming/ napping this afternoon, I got to thinking about vandwelling, working, and daycamping. Even though Jesse and I have a fixed dwelling, I recently had the opportunity to use the van and do some daycamping while working graveyard hours. In vandwelling circles, working overnights a.k.a. “graveyard shift” can be popular. Why? You work quietly and then can park and sleep just about anywhere during the day without a knock on the door. Cops look for people sleeping in public places at night… but nobody really notices a white van parked at Home Depot for an afternoon. Third shift work can be a nice fit, but there were some aspects – both good and bad – that I wanted to share as food for thought…
Pros of working overnight shifts:
- Availability – There are often graveyard shifts available even when the economy is at its worst. For obvious reasons, overnights are not popular with most people with children. This makes work available for single people.
- Invisibility – You can generally sleep in your van or other camping vehicle unnoticed – often in some of the same parks that would charge a fee to sleep overnight!
- If you are working alone, the shift is fairly peaceful (such as in a gas station). If working with another person, it can be fun if he or she is compatible.
- Autonomy – You can be your own boss most of the time in smaller shops as long as the work gets done.
- Better pay – Many places offer a shift differential for working overnights.
- Flexibility – After work I used to sleep a couple hours, mow the yard at the home base, sleep some more, etc. This worked out well if I wanted to do a little fishing as the sun would come up and then take a snooze.
- Less politics – With fewer people around, there tends to be less interpersonal conflicts (hopefully)
Unfortunately, I found that graveyard shifts can have some disadvantages as well, ranging from inconvenient to risky. In this person’s case, the work schedule was mixed – some afternoon shifts, some graveyard shifts – and that shuffle can cause a person even more problems.
Some disadvantages to working overnights included:
- Managing diabetes is tricky on graveyard shifts. Many doctors will tell diabetics not to do it. Night time medications might need to be taken in the morning and morning meds taken at night. On days off, if you revert to a normal schedule, it can further disrupt things. Once well maintained, my sugars went berserk working overnights due to changing eating, sleeping, and medication habits.
- Sleeping. It seemed like I often needed more sleep working the graveyard shift. 2+6 doesn’t equal 8. I tended to sleep more hours trying to compensate for fatigue when sleep was interrupted.
- Photophobia. It’s not quite that bad but working at night and sleeping during the day has a strange effect. When you go outside, your eyes hurt from seeing light… almost like the sensation following an eye exam. (or how the young kids feel after smoking “wacky tobacky”). The lack of sunlight is proven to negatively impact moods.
- The phone ringing. Other than turning it off, it is difficult to be awakened frequently by the telephone. People who know you work overnight will often call during the day anyway… and business calls will happen as well. Cars go by, trucks back up, and in this neighborhood, the civil defense siren (across the street) goes off at random times to call the volunteer fire department as needed.
- Security. Working overnights in retail is risky. Where I worked it was not a problem (small Iowa town) but we still had our share of issues. I remember a guy falling out of his truck, staggering into the store in front of two police officers (who were on break drinking soda). He got a ride to the “iron bar motel” and charged with OWI. That was the most excitement I can remember. In the various gas stations where I’ve worked police have always had to intervene – mainly after dark – and at times for dangerous situations.
- Mental confusion. This is very real. When working 9 PM to 5 AM, I often needed to look at the cell phone to know what day it was. When people would say “see you tomorrow”, it was usually the morning crew… while I would tell the co-worker “see you tonight”. This kind of disorientation can be very difficult, again for those of us on medications that might make us a little groggy, anyway. (i.e. blood pressure, diabetes, or psych meds)
- Increased productivity expectations. Both myself and others who work in gas stations will often tell you that there is a perception that overnight staff have nothing to do and as a result, the required cleaning, stocking, etc. expectations are much greater. During my last couple of weeks the Sunday labor was cut to where one person had to do what used to be given 16 man-hours of labor. It was nearly impossible to accomplish… If I was lucky, it meant a 15 minute break in a ten hour shift.
If there is one piece of advice I would give about working the graveyard shift it would be to try it… I think most future employers in an interview would understand if you said you worked the overnight hours and it didn’t work out. Personally, I would think about doing overnights shifts again if not for the medical conditions that seem to necessitate a more conventional schedule. If the security risks are not an issue, it’s a lot of fun being semi-autonomous… especially for those self-motivated.
Thanks for stopping by today! It would be fun to hear others’ experiences working overnights.
Take care and thanks for visiting.
Brad and Jesse James
Jones County, Iowa
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