How to get a work-life balance, when your hours are anything but 9 to 5

08.05.2018

When Dolly Parton wrote her hit single “9 To 5”, she should have included a caveat in the liner notes: working 9 to 5 is a lot easier than working 5 to 9. In fact, this could have even formed the basis of a B-side, but she clearly missed a trick. Truthfully, working on an alternate or irregular schedule can have its perks - for one, it provides total freedom from the hustle and bustle of the rush-hour commute.  

However, waking up to a night sky is not for the faint-hearted, and once the novelty of getting home when everyone’s getting up wears off, shift work can take its toll. In the face of non-standard hours, night-owls and temp workers alike must maintain a healthy work-life balance in order to stay energised and motivated every day (and night). Here’s how: 

  1. Set personal goals 

If your working hours are anything but social, you’re going to spend a great deal of time with yourself. Rather than letting FOMO get the best of you, try to see this as an opportunity for you to really focus on yourself. If you’re struggling to reclaim your downtime and every spare hour has become “time between work”, set yourself some personal targets to achieve. While this might centre on self-improvement, you might also wish to set goals relating to well-being: reading a book each week or watching five new films, for example.  

  1. Stay social 

A number of studies have shown social contact to be just as effective as exercise at improving your mood and quality of life. However, socialising with friends and family can be challenging when your schedules don’t align. It can be easy at this stage to simply accept defeat and become a hermit. Doing so might help you achieve some of those aforementioned goals, but before long, the motivation and energy will start to dip. Instead, make an effort to spend quality time with your nearest and dearest as and when you can: you won’t regret it.  

  1. Get enough sleep 

According to a new study from the TUC, the number of people regularly working nights has increased by 260,000 in the past five years. Today, Britains late-night workforce is roughly 3.2 million members strong: that’s 1 in 9 workers in the UK labour force. Reflecting on the findings of the study, Frances O’Grady, General Secretary for TUC said:  

Night work can play havoc with family and social life, and have long-term health impacts - many of the jobs are tough and often solitary.” 

If this sounds familiar, your primary concern should be getting enough sleep. While it might be tempting to cut 6 hours down to 4 to make the most of the time you have off work, don’t deprive your body of what it needs. If your alarm rings and your eyes can barely open to check the time, give yourself another hour or two: you could probably use them. Subtle changes such as these will help you to feel healthier and happier, restoring the balance to your work-life ratio.