16 Real Disadvantages/Downsides of Shift Work (For Employees)

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

Is shift work for you, or should you be looking for a full-time 9 to 5 job? Many people spend a considerable amount of time grappling with this very decision. On the one hand, it may seem like shift work frees up your time, but is that really enough to outweigh the various disadvantages that come with shift work?

Working shifts can become quite a chore, especially if you still want to connect with family and friends who are living and working regular lives and hours. That type of schedule may work for some people, but will it really work for you? Consider these 16 disadvantages before you take the plunge into a shift-working lifestyle. 

16 reasons why shift work isn’t that great:

1. Your routine is consistently disrupted.

When working shifts, your shift hours are very rarely the same every day, which means that you will need to get used to chopping and changing your work hours as your employer seems fit. This might seem fine to you, but how will your partner and children feel? 

2. Limited responsibility could lead to job dissatisfaction. 

Most shift workers aren’t given much in terms of responsibility, which means that you won’t receive recognition for your efforts or a job well done. If you’re looking for the type of job that satisfies and challenges you, look for something that is more stable and rewarding. 

3. Newbies often get the worst shifts.

The shift workers who have been around for a few years will undoubtedly have the best shift hours assigned to them. If you are new to a company and working in shifts, you can expect to be assigned the inconvenient shift hours, at least for some time. 

4. Negative impact on the family unit’s quality time.

Shift work often means that you aren’t able to attend regular family gatherings. You might miss your kid’s sports day or can’t make it to dinners as a family. Be prepared for your family members to have a hard time dealing with this. 

5. You may have to work at night when you would rather be socializing or sleeping.

Many people know just how hard night shifts can be. You have to stay awake during the night hours, and you have to get things done. Of course, you will miss out on social events and also a nice night’s sleep. 

6. Poor diet may result from unusual work times.

If you are working odd hours and don’t have time to cook a meal before work, you might find yourself skipping meals or eating takeout and junk food. If you already struggle to take care of your health, this could be diabolical for your diet. 

7. Your sleeping pattern may become irregular.

If you work shifts, you may have to find unusual times to sleep to avoid being tired at work. You may have to go to bed really early at night so that you can be up early the next day or even find yourself having to nap in the morning so that you can work a long shift that drags into the night. This can wreak havoc on your healthy sleeping patterns and could even result in poor quality sleep. 

8. You may find yourself merely going through the motions (lacking work ethic).

Shift work may seem like the same old thing over and over. When that happens, people tend to simply start going through the motions, doing only what needs to be done and not really applying themselves. If you want to ensure that you keep a motivated work ethic, consider getting a full-time job with regular hours. 

9. Your lifestyle may become lonely.

When you work shifts, you miss out on all the regular time spent with family and friends. While this might not have an impact in the short term, the more time you miss with those you care about, the lonelier your life may become. Losing touch might make your life a little mundane. 

10. It may be hard to make friends at work as shifts may separate you from friends.

Making friends at work may be challenging because when the shifts are assigned at random, it could mean that you are always working with someone new. You may get to know your coworkers on a surface level, but probably there won’t be much time to truly get to know them and become good friends. 

11. When you go on holiday/take a break, the readjustment time can be uncomfortable.

If you go on holiday or take a break from work, chances are that your daily routine will return to normal for a short time. This can be relieving, but what about when you have to go back to work? Suddenly your entire routing is up-heaved all over again. 

12. If you work the night shift, you may find yourself at security risk. 

Working the night shift comes with its risks. The business may be burgled at night while you are on shift, or you may face danger on the road or while arriving at work or at home at an odd time. This is particularly risky for women who work the night shift or into the wee small hours of the morning. 

13. Repetitive work can lead to boredom and even depression.

The nature of shift work is very rarely challenging or diverse. Usually, there is a set of functions you must carry out for a set period of time, and then you are free to go home. Doing something fairly unchallenging and boring every single day could lead to lackluster feelings and even depressive thoughts. 

14. Shift workers aren’t as valued as full-time dedicated employees.

As it turns out, most companies believe that shift workers can be easily replaced, so they aren’t too motivated to take extra special care of their shift employees. Full-time and dedicated workers are often given priority. If you are looking for a job where you are valued and rewarded for your efforts, you probably aren’t going to find that while shift working.

15. Little room for advancement and promotion when working shifts. 

If you want the type of job where you can advance and be promoted, getting yourself ensconced in a shift work job is not a step in the right direction. Sure, it can work as a way to get your foot in the door, but make sure that you are always sprucing up your skills and that the company is aware of what your ambitions are. 

16. You may find it hard to take a sick day when you need it. 

As a shift worker, you aren’t to expect paid sick leave days. If you fall ill or can’t make it to work, you will undoubtedly have to find someone else to cover your shift for you. Failing to do that means that you won’t get paid and could get you into trouble (even issued a warning). 

In short

As a shift worker, there is a limited amount of expectation that you can impose on the employing company. Of course, it may not be all doom and gloom, and if shift work is your only option for earning an income, these inconveniences may not be reason enough to turn it down. Consider each of these pointers and think about how urgently you need the job. Is shift work for you? You decide!

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This article was co-authored by our team of in-house and freelance writers, and reviewed by our editors, who share their experiences and knowledge about the "Seven F's of Life".

JC Franco
Editor | + posts

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He covers topics like spirituality, philosophy, finance, sports, games, and food. JC earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business with a Marketing Concentration at Mercyhurst University. He is a certified USPTA professional who teaches tennis in the New York City Metropolitan area. He has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.