Pros and cons of a 9-5 job
April 2, 2018 8:55 AM   Subscribe

I’ve been considering transitioning from shift work to a regular 9-5 office job in the next few years as my family grows. Can you help me parse this out in my mind?

I am happy in my current (hospital nursing) position which is 3 12 hour shifts a week, usually 7a-7p but sometimes 7p-7a or 3p-3a. I take a lot of call shifts. I spend a lot of time on my feet. It is stressful. I work a lot of holidays. I work a lot of weekends. But at this point in my life I don’t mind those “downsides” and the benefits are - it is very rewarding, I am constantly honing my skills, and I get 4 days off every week.

What got me thinking of this is yesterday I worked until 3am, asleep at 4am and got up at 745 for a family Easter at 9am. I have been extra tired since then, which, duh. I have a feeling that once I have kids (I am 26 weeks pregnant) I am going to have an even tougher time balancing work and life.

My husband has spent the last couple years working a series of union welding jobs - so basically 9-5 m-f. I have noticed a biiiiig uptick in his happiness level since he switched from his old, stressful job with a crazy schedule (lobstering). It got me wondering if I would benefit from it too. I get a lot of joy out of simple routines like watching a tv show together ever night, and cooking dinner every night. I think a 9-5 would be better for that.

Friends who have done both ALL say they prefer the 9-5. I just.. can’t imagine not having 4 days off a week, or having to get up and go to work 5 days a week, or sitting at a desk all day which I haven’t done since high school. It’s why my coworkers have stayed in their current positions. But then I think about never having to work Christmas ever, and being free to go to all of my kids extracurriculars, and it sounds amazing.

I’ve never worked a 9-5 in my 16 years as a working adult. There are tons of office nursing jobs near me. Those of you who have done both shiftwork and held a regular 9-5 - what are some benefits and downsides I am NOT considering?
posted by pintapicasso to Work & Money (19 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: This is sort of tangential to your question, but you're conflating a 9-5 job with a desk job, and that doesn't have to be the case. My brother, for example, is a nurse with an 8-4 M-F schedule, doing home visits for hospice and other patients. There might be ways to get the regular schedule without having to sit at a desk all day.
posted by spindrifter at 9:19 AM on April 2, 2018 [16 favorites]

Best answer: My parents were both shift workers. One of the big reasons I chose the career I did was because the forced absence of shift work was really rough on me and my brother when it came to getting ready for school or taking care of ourselves when we got home. The holidays didn't bother me so much, we just celebrated the day before or after. However, now that I have a seven year old I'm reflecting on everything I had to do myself because one or both of my parents were working or sleeping. My parents both grew up really poor and did not think much of expecting young children to feed and groom themselves because it's what they had to do from a young age. Also, having to be quiet all the time because someone was sleeping was not great.

You, of course, are probably not going to have those expectations and could avoid all of the pitfalls with good planning or relying on your non-shift working husband to take care of mornings and/or afternoons. But it's definitely something to consider if you're planning on adding to your family.
posted by Alison at 9:20 AM on April 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've had both, and what I need to be happy is a regular schedule. It can be 9-5, or it could be 3 12-hour days, or whatever, but it needs to be the same thing every week. Then I can plan the rest my life around work.

Who's going to watch your kid? Having a regular schedule will make daycare a lot easier, that's for sure.
posted by lyssabee at 9:21 AM on April 2, 2018 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I know someone with this schedule who had a baby. Financially, it's been great for them, as they only need a nanny / daycare for the ~2 days that the nursing shifts overlap with the other partner's 9-5. And she gets a lot of time home with her baby. That said, she has a regular schedule and would have a harder time finding childcare if it changed a lot.
posted by salvia at 9:41 AM on April 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I worked 13 years in PICU and then 18 years as a case coordinator, 9-5.
At the outset, I was on 3-11, 5 days a week. The huge benefit to this was that my husband worked 7-3, 5 days a week. So our first baby only spent about 2 hours a day in daycare, and my husband had all the child duties in the evenings and on alternate weekends. This gave him a huge set of skills for child rearing and a wonderful bond with our son. When our daughter came along, I was on 12s. 7-7 , so he had the kids on my work evenings and weekends. Awesome relationships for him and the kids. The downside was going to bed at midnight and having a baby wake up in my care at 5 a.m.
And holidays. Boy, was I sick of missing holidays at home. I had no seniority for several years and ended up working mandatory overtime two Christmases in a row. (7am to midnight on Christmas Eve, then back at 7 am on Christmas morning.) I scheduled my second pregnancy so as to have Christmas off. But 13 years of ICU was more than enough. I was simultaneously bored, burnt out, and over stressed.

Having an office job was bliss in terms of scheduling. Every weekend, every holiday off! And my job allowed me to take a half day here and there to run errands or go to the dentist without using a sick day, which was good. Because stuff is closed after 5 and on the weekends. The downside to it was that it was a very high stress position and I ended up staying late way more often than was good for my family or me. For years.

There are up sides and downs to both options. I couldn't have stayed in the hospital for the rest of my career, so office was right for me. But I love that my husband was able to be a true caregiver with the kids and has such a good relationship with them.

Best of luck in making your choice.

(Pro tip: max out your 401K donations.)
posted by SLC Mom at 9:52 AM on April 2, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This reminds me of this previous Ask about "going corporate" except instead of job resources we're talking about your time/sleep reserves. It doesn't exactly answer your question but maybe you'll find the discussion helpful in reframing your perception of stodgy office jobs.

(All of my experience with shift work is second hand but the psychological toll sounds even worse to me than the logistics. My best friend was a nurse and worked nights (week on week off). She also swore she could never work five days a week every week, but she spent all of her off-time trying to get her sleeping back on track so I'm not convinced it was a net gain. Another close friend always thought her grandpa was a cranky asshole and then he retired from shift work and it turns out he was actually a pleasant person who was perpetually sleep deprived for thirty years. If you've never had regular work hours before, what's the harm in considering it and seeing how it goes?)
posted by yeahlikethat at 10:36 AM on April 2, 2018

I've never done shift work, but I did once have a job where I worked a set schedule of three 12-hour days. It had its pluses, but I'd never do it again, especially not with kids.

When you work non-traditional hours, you become the person that everyone has to schedule around. You can never be spontaneous, and it's difficult to RSVP for anything too far in advance because you don't know your schedule yet. (Or, as you found out with Easter, you're forced to do things at inconvenient times.) It'll just get harder with kids. Your kid's dance troupe or soccer league can't schedule their recitals or games around your shifts. You'll have to miss a lot of things you'd prefer not to.

Having kids is also physically demanding, especially if you breastfeed. If you think sleeping is tricky now, imagine a screaming infant added to the mix. There's a lot of lifting and bending over and being on all fours. When I went back to work, I felt like I was going to collapse after sitting at a desk for two hours. (And I wasn't even doing the hard work that my wife was!) If you want to do all that AND work twelve hours on your feet at a time...

Ultimately, it's all the same amount of work, just apportioned differently. When I was working my three day weeks, I would marvel at being able sleep for twelve hours straight and shop for groceries at 2pm when stores were empty. When you have kids, though, a lot of how to apportion your time is out of your hands. If you're going to be on a schedule that's not your own, you might as well be on the same schedule as everyone else.
posted by kevinbelt at 10:59 AM on April 2, 2018

Best answer: I did shift work for 15 years while having my family and it was very difficult on me (I had no choice as sole breadwinner). Once I switched to a 8-4 shift things were so much easier, it was like 25% of my mental capacity was freed up. I think because so much of family life with children is logistics, the constantly having to know everyone's schedule and then constantly co-ordinating my out-of-sync schedule with theirs was a constant top-of-my-mind concern. Once I went 8-4 I was able to schedule my children for birthday parties, extracurriculars, family get-togethers, and special events that they had to miss before. My Ex has your schedule and now he middle aged he basically sleeps the whole time he is not working: his just doesn't have the reserves for that schedule any more.

Since you like having a longer time off than just a two day weekend, why don't you look for a shorter workweek? Such as working 8-4 only Mon-Thurs? Around here that is not an unusual healthcare shift, nor is working only 6 hours a day instead of 8. Both which bring down you hours, but usually do not affect your pay as much as you would think. (This depends on how your jurisdictions does taxes.)
posted by saucysault at 11:05 AM on April 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

If you could get three set 12s, that would be my ideal child raising schedule, especially if the other parent works 9-5. Baby doesn't have to spend a lot of time in child care, you get to spend a lot of time with baby in chunks instead of a few hours each evening. When I was breast feeding, I worked 4- 10s, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday as a break in the middle of the week, and then back on Thursday, Friday. That gave me some rest and recuperation time in the middle of the week, because breastfeeding was exhausting in those early days.
posted by Gyre,Gimble,Wabe, Esq. at 11:26 AM on April 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I worked weird shift jobs too for my first 13 years of working life. It's been about 3 years since I switched to 8-5.

Don't regret it at all.

It totally depends on your 8-5 job though. The things I love about mine

No holidays. There is an on call rotation but there are enough folks that it'll be 3+ years before I work 1 of the major Winter holidays again.

Hour long lunch breaks. I get a lot done during these hours, chores etc. so my free time is free and not spent running errands.

Can work from home when kiddos are sick.

Possible to schedule time off on the fly. When I worked in a clinical space I felt like we had to plan stuff out ridiculously far in advance.

Flex time, if I need to do something in the morning it's possible to switch my hours to 9-6 without prior permission. Same for the night, I can work 7-4 if I need to leave early.

The only thing that was nice about working 12's (but also shitty) when my kids were little we didn't do daycare. I spent the first 10 months of my second borns life working every weekend to make this happen. Pumping breastmilk was also hard for me in the clinical environment. Patients always had needs and it was hard to break away to attend to my own needs.
posted by MadMadam at 11:41 AM on April 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

For what it's worth, my wife has worked in emergency veterinary nursing for 20 years now, almost all of it weekend/second shift/overnight in some combination. It's not easy, but one solid advantage is that when you and your partner work opposite shifts, you have that much less daycare to pay for. You will need some kind of regular schedule, however, as very few daycare situations will accommodate an irregular schedule easily.
posted by Rock Steady at 12:43 PM on April 2, 2018

There are heavily studied health dangers in working shift-work as opposed to working traditional hours.
More Here. Full Disclosure: I am the son of a sleep researcher.
posted by evilmonk at 12:48 PM on April 2, 2018

Best answer: My mother-in-law has recently stopped doing shift work (after doing it for decades) and the change I've seen in amazing. She is more awake, more alert, brighter, happier (and she's a pretty happy, cheerful person to begin with!). Sleep deprivation and wonky sleep cycles take their toll.

However, I recently changed from a job with odd hours (same times each week, but more like M 9-3, T 11-8, W 8-2, Th/F off, S 10-5, S off) for a basically M-F 9-5 job and the change was really, really difficult. Part of it is a longer commute, which eats up a lot of time, but part of it is not having time off during the week, either to have alone time to recharge, spend time with friends who don't have 9-5 jobs, run errands, plan doctor's appointments without using sick time, go to stores and banks that have terrible hours for 9-5ers, and all those other wonderful things about having weekdays off. So if you do get a standard 9-5, be prepared to feel pretty hemmed in at first. If possible (if it exists, if the $ works, if they're willing to negotiate, etc.), find a non 9-5 job that isn't shift work or negotiate for a day off or slighter shorter days or something.
posted by carrioncomfort at 12:54 PM on April 2, 2018

Best answer: Something you may want to consider with this that I don't see mentioned above is your relationship with your significant other if you make this change as well. My husband and I have been together for 13 years and he has ALWAYS done shift work. (it's changed through our marriage - currently 3pm to 3am).

We have two children.

We have more alone time, away from each other, which honestly I feel keeps us close and happy to see each other.
Daycare cost is significantly lower. He keeps the kids on days he doesn't have to work.
I get the remote to myself.
"What do you want for dinner?" game sucks and I don't have to do it half as much.

Taking care of the kid on your own sucks, but it's a lot easier with just one kid.
Keeping the kids quiet while daddy sleeps when I am home on the weekends.

For us, it WORKS. It works so good. It can be frustrating sometimes but I never had that issue before we had kids. Once kids were in the mix, I needed a hand. I have my mom come over once a week for an hour or two and she sits with the kids while I take a shower or do laundry and dishes.
posted by Sara_NOT_Sarah at 1:09 PM on April 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: One thing that sucks about the 9-5 is getting home around 6 and having to get through the evening rush with your spouse and child, you end up sitting together on the couch, yes, but you are both pooped, and you have to rinse and repeat 4 more times before the weekend. A lot of people feel like they only get quality weekend time with their kids because the getting ready for work/school and getting ready for dinner/bed is so hectic. When my son was a baby/toddler I hated only seeing him awake for a few hours a day asides from weekends. Now that he's in school it's not as bad but I sometimes resent being in an office during the best parts of the day, but the benefits for me right now outweigh the cons.
posted by lafemma at 2:31 PM on April 2, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: (Okay I'm sure you've looked into this but-) Where I live there are "normal" working hours nursing jobs in community-based services like district nursing, community mental-health teams etc - not sure if that's something that would interest you? Obviously working in the community & potentially doing a lot of lone working is very different from working in a ward, but it's also not sitting at a desk all day - it's still rewarding, you still get patient interaction & a challenge. I was chatting to a district nurse who worked pretty regular 9-5 Monday-Friday hours, and had to work one weekend in four or something - it sounded a lot more balanced than shift work, which can weirdly take over your life even if you have a lot of days off.

Another thing that occurred to me - not sure what your contract is like but some of the nursing staff I work with would hesitate to take a 9-5 job (even at a higher pay grade) because they'd lose out on the higher rate of pay we get for working antisocial hours and weekends and would take a pay-cut overall. YMMV obviously & with child care there are obviously a lot of other factors.

Reading this thread with interest - I'm a nursing assistant and I LOVE my job but frankly shift work sucks for my relationship & I worry about how it will work if we have kids. When you find the answer let me know!
posted by the cat's pyjamas at 2:40 PM on April 2, 2018

It's not easy, but one solid advantage is that when you and your partner work opposite shifts, you have that much less daycare to pay for.

I did have to pay for daycare, but my then-husband would occasionally pinch-hit for an hour here and there with the kids while I was working. The times we were both able to look after the children was not a lot, but he felt that was the only time he could go socializing (since he refused to pay for child care), so he used the rare times we were both home to visit his friends. This meant we got zero couple time over 15 years of marriage which probably led to our marriage break-up, and I had no time to visit with friends unless I brought the children along with me. So factor in how little time you will have as a family together, as well as how little time you will have as a couple as well, let alone time to visit family and friends if you are planning on working opposite shifts.
posted by saucysault at 2:59 PM on April 2, 2018

Best answer: I work a 9-6 job right now and it's killing me. Our life situations are very different, but I'd love to have four days off a week. A working day is basically like not having a day anyway, so as it is right now I get 1 or 0 days off a week between both jobs. I feel like I have very little time to do any of the stuff I want to do with my life, not to mention any errand or basic home chore also becomes a thing that consumes the remainder of work days. I miss my old serving job being my only job, hours were random, but flexible, and 8+ hour days were uncommon. I hate it. Then again, I'm the sort of crap person who sees work as something you have to suffer through to be able to afford to suffer through the rest of your life, so my experiences may not apply to you.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:27 PM on April 2, 2018

Best answer: One of my parents did both shift work and 9-5 work as a sole breadwinner. Said parent works in healthcare, and felt that a night shift with an easier patient load would be better for their work/life balance, which is 100% not the way things turned out. Shift work is an unchallenged norm for blue-collar and/or health care worker-headed households, but some handle it better than others.

Reflecting on this a couple decades later, I'd say that the most important thing is that you recognize that regardless of your work hours, people around you will have an expectation that you stay involved in family life somehow, and that's a reasonable expectation for them to have. Not working 9-5 means that you won't have the same opportunities to be involved in activities that assume a 9-5 schedule, but you need to show up when you can. If your weekends fall during the work week, they may align with some of your kids' activities, which can be helpful. Similarly, if you miss holidays due to work, it's on you to help create family traditions that break up the monotony of work and school in the way a stat holiday would.

Kids can tell from a fairly early age when mommy or daddy sleeps all the time, makes no effort to maintain relationships with friends/family and is defensive about it because work is a necessity.

Shift work is a raw deal cognitively speaking and will throw off your social rhythm in a way that 9-5ers won't get, but it's not a legitimate "get out of jail" card for participating in your family's life. You have a spouse who'll probably call you out on letting your work/life balance slide, which is good, but don't place all the burden on them.
posted by blerghamot at 3:56 PM on April 2, 2018

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