If you work a job that is outside the traditional 9-to-5 schedule, it can be challenging to maintain current relationships and create new ones. Here are some steps to take to keep a thriving social life despite your work.
Find Others with Similar Schedules
Seeking out those with almost the same working hours (and thus often the same off hours) is one of the easiest ways to keep your social circle full. Besides having a similar schedule to you, they will likely be more understanding of the difficulties associated with your unusual job hours.
There are tons of places you can meet people with similar schedules to you. Try your work, people in the same industry, or in other industries with traditional unusual work hours (such as restaurants and hotels). You might even find groups in your area on sites like Meetup, LinkedIn or forums.
Maximise the Time You Do Have
Of course, you probably also have friends who do work 9-to-5 jobs, so you have to find ways to work with that. Manage your schedule better by using apps like Shifts. This will help you find overlapping time between your schedule and theirs. Our own Patrick Allan says that you need to really prioritise that overlapping social time, since you may not easily have another chance to hang out. You can also maximise that time with meaningful activities instead of run of the mill ones, this is especially relevant if you're trying to make you and your partner's schedule work.
Use some of your time to prepare yourself so that you have more time to socialise when others are available. For example, plan to take care of errands and chores when other aren't free. Really try to work your schedule around your friends, since they're probably the hardest thing to schedule.
Know That Everyone Will Have to Compromise
Hopefully, your friends, family, and partner are understanding of your tough schedule — and are willing to make sacrifices to hang out with you. For example, if you work until 9pm and want to hang out with a friend who ends work at 6pm, they might stay up later and lose out on a few hours of sleep to see you. This can go the other way as well — you might have to wake up earlier or go straight from work to meet them.
As our own Kristin Wong points out, if you're in charge of your own work hours, you'll have to enforce your schedule so that you can get back to work. This is especially true for days that others normally have off (weekends, holidays) since they may not realise you don't have the whole day off. The National Sleep Disorder Foundation suggests that if you have children, create a calendar of your schedule. This helps set their expectations around when you'll be home and able to spend time with them. You can also schedule a special activity each week for your kids to look forward to doing with you.
Remember the Benefits of Your Schedule
When you work an unusual shift there are health effects. Jordan Teicher, writing on The Billfold, lays out how working the night shift decreased in his health to the point that he decided to find a new job:
But I couldn't ignore what was really going on: A war against my body's natural impulses, whose battles I was regularly losing. I bought melatonin pills in hopes of falling asleep at 7 every night. That didn't work. Even after shifts on a near-appropriate amount of sleep, I found myself emerging bleary-eyed into the bright afternoon, unable to fathom staying up long enough to socialize, no less look for other jobs. Turns out that the body doesn't like when you mess with its biological clock. It wants to sleep when it's dark.
If you don't experience these issues, or want to keep your shift work for other reasons, there are pluses to a nontraditional work schedule. Some examples are:
- You have an easier to time running errands or going out because you can do it on weekdays to avoid the crowds.
- You may not have to start your day off early. This is a huge pro if you're a night owl.
- Being able to have a flexible schedule (depending on your job)
- Control of your workspace (sometimes)
- Being your own boss (sometimes)
Take advantage of the flexibility and benefits of your work schedule.
Having a work-life balance is important for your mental, emotional, and physical health. Use the above guidance to find that balance even if you don't work a 9-to-5 job.