shift worker – definition

Ever wondered what hours you need to work to be classified as a shift worker? ⁠

photo of a shift worker sitting outside of a hospital

The definition of a shift worker is a worker whos work takes place outside of 9 am-5 pm.  Shift types include afternoon, evening, night, early morning shifts, rotating shifts and split shifts.  Early morning shifts are any shift starting between 4 am-7 am.

Who does shift work?

Many industries rely on shift workers, with nearly 20% of Australians doing shift work. The most common shift work professions are protective services, transport and healthcare. ⁠

Although mining makes up a small percentage of workers in Australia, they have the highest percentage of workers who do shift work and make up a significant percentage of total shift workers.⁠

Hospitality, constructions and retail workers and farmers also meet the definition as a shift worker.  This is because they often work early mornings or evenings.

Why do we do shift work?

Shift work was developed for multiple purposes. It allows maximum production opportunities by making full use of all 24 hours of the day. Shift work also ensures that many essential services are provided to the community around the clock.

tired shift worker

As a shift worker of 20+ years, I understand the ups and downs of this type of work.  Although shift work is physically and mentally demanding and comes with health effects, it also has its benefits.  As a naturopath, I chose to focus on shift workers and those with poor sleep as I struggled with sleep and maintaining a healthy life when I was a shift worker.  I understand what it’s like to have your alarm go off and have to drag yourself out of bed at 5 am, or be so tired from yet another round of night shift that you go to work in mismatched shoes or miss out on a friends birthday party because you are on the afternoon shift and no one would swap shifts with you.

A happy shift worker

It’s important for shift workers to educate themselves about the health effects of shift work so they can take steps to prevent illness.  Most shift workers find it hard to get 8hrs of quality sleep, this has many negative health effects.  Shift work may also impact on your family and social life, affecting mood and wellbeing.  Therefore, if you are a shift worker it’s important that you try to optimise your sleep, and to eat, drink and exercise in a way that supports your health.  It is also important to prioritise time with family and friends.

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