How We Talk About Shiftwork

When you talk about shiftwork what words do you use?

Do you use words with ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ connotations?

For example, many people refer to the night shift as ‘graveyards.’ Does that word make you feel positive about your work and your place in the organization?

As another example, I was being interviewed on a podcast about shiftwork. Even though the interviewer was a physician, he indicated that he had only ever worked ‘normal’ hours.

He was not alone in using this reference. Many people, even shiftworkers themselves, think of Monday to Friday, 9 to 5 as the ‘normal’ hours of work.

But when approximately 25% of the labor force in Canada and the US does some form of shiftwork, shiftwork is what is ‘normal’ for millions of people.

Let’s also consider that the people working the ‘not normal’ schedules are providing all of us with essential services. They keep us safe, help us in emergencies, ensure we have power and access to the utilities that we count on.

They also get us where we need to go either by plane, train or Uber. They ensure that the products we need are in the stores and the parcels we order are on our doorstep by morning.

In spite of the sometimes negative connotations about shiftwork and night shifts, many workers find that shiftwork fits their needs and they enjoy the flexibility even if their sleep is disrupted and friends and family don’t understand their lifestyle.

Words matter. Let’s show we value shiftworkers by using words with a more positive connotation when we’re talking about shiftwork.

What do you think?

By Carolyn Schur |

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