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Old 06-15-10, 06:03 PM   #1
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Shift Work

So, I'm possibly getting an offer shortly for a new job. I just started my current job as a contractor for an electric utility (doing engineering work) a couple weeks ago, but when I was in some training (specialized training, by a vendor coming in for a week) last week we were discussing the system operator job and watching them work for a bit (since we were doing something that kinda supports them).

I've always thought that would be a cool job, and I mentioned it to one of the managers who happened to be in there. This week my current boss tells me that the other managers are interesting in having me become a system operator. I don't know a whole lot of details yet, but here's what I do know.

It's shift work, 12 hour shifts at a time, 5-5. There's a 6 week schedule.

All day shifts are 5 AM - 5 PM (usually more like 5:30 because of the handoff), nights are 5 PM to 5 AM (again, more like 5:30 AM).

Wk1: M T day, S Su day
Wk2: W H F day
Wk3: relief. usually you work a week's schedule for someone, they don't move you between day/night if at all possible.
Wk4: M T W nights
Wk5: H F S Su nights
Wk6: off


An engineering degree isn't required to be an operator. You have to go through training for 3-6 months, but the manager said I'd definitely be on the 3 month side of that. Because of the training, they want at least a 2 year commitment, but would prefer 3 years.

I'm currently a contractor, making a very good hourly rate. They'd convert me to a salary employee and I'd probably take a pretty good pay cut. I just don't know the numbers yet.

My main question is about the shift work. I've never been someone who falls asleep easily or stays asleep all that well, but I'm learning to get better at it. The fact that I'd only work 17.5 days on average every 6 weeks kinda appeals to me. It's also a schedule that makes it possible to take 2 weeks in a row off by just taking 2 days of vacation.
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Old 06-15-10, 06:40 PM   #2
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My Father worked shift work for Kodak for years and years. It was hard on my Mom as there was 4 of us kids - Dad seemed to handle it ok, of course he complained about his bosses, etc for years when at the Sunday dinner table. Us kids? Well the "WAIT TILL YOU FATHER COMES HOME" didn't pan out at that time, hehe. So we didn't mind.

I would think you would need to be quite organized in order to restructure your life around those hours, etc. Good luck!!!
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Old 06-15-10, 06:51 PM   #3
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my brother worked shift work at an aluminum plant and they had more of a rolling 5 day schedule and it was tough on him. That schedule looks much better. long days but a lot of long days off.
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Old 06-15-10, 06:51 PM   #4
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I forgot to mention, I'm single currently, and only 21. I figure if there's any time to do it, this is it.
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Old 06-15-10, 07:16 PM   #5
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I had a hard time switching between days and nights when I started working as a nurse. on the other hand, that schedule is much more humane than mine was. not sure if this matters, but I was also 40 when I started!

I don't mind working nights at all, and am doing so currently... it was just the switching I hated.
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Old 06-15-10, 07:20 PM   #6
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You only live once. Do it if it feels right.
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 06-15-10, 07:47 PM   #7
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I worked a two 12 hour day shift followed by two night shifts then four days off for years when I worked,so here's some pointers. Set up a sleep cave for sleeping so dark you can't see your hand in front of your nose ,keep it between 60 and 65,have a source of white noise fan/radio off station turned down low,have a breakfast/snack of slow digesting food,don't schedule anything for your sleep time,,have a shower just before hitting the sack.
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Old 06-15-10, 10:59 PM   #8
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I am a nuke plant operator. We do a five week rotation similar to what you are looking at. It doesn't bother me as much as some. People have different routines to swapping day and night. Some stay up as late as possible a night or two before there work night. I sleep in as late as possible usually 8am then am up until I get off work the next morning. Your sleep schedule gets messed up. I can't sleep right now for instance. I can stay up about 30 hrs max. If you wake up for some reason at anytime, it is hard to get back to sleep. I only get around 6 hrs of sleep a day no matter if I am working or off. Rolling off nights back to days is the hardest for me. You mentioned you only work 18 days a month but a few more are wasted on the roll on, roll off. It works for us, we homeschool our kids and the week off every five weeks we try to travel or do something fun with the kids. When I am working nights the kids sleep with mom, they look foward to it. Its not for everyone but its not bad.
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Old 06-16-10, 08:04 AM   #9
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I used to be a nuke plant operator. I will admit, the shift work does wear on you after awhile, and sometimes during a plant shutdown or other periodic event, the overtime can get pretty intense.

I quit and went to college, and my working conditions are much better now. But I have to admit, that job was the most fun I have ever had at work.
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Old 06-16-10, 08:48 AM   #10
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You guys were/are nuke plant operators, eh?


Last edited by mikeybikes; 06-16-10 at 08:51 AM.
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Old 06-16-10, 08:50 AM   #11
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that is not an accurate portrayal of Trsidn. He wears boxers, but not at work.
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 06-16-10, 08:56 AM   #12
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I worked shift work for a number of years.

It's very hard on a family.

It's hard on the person doing the shifting.

It's very hard on your social life.

Shifting between night and day is really hard on YOU! Just when your body becomes acclimated, you shift again.

I HATED IT! SO DID MY FAMILY!
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Old 06-16-10, 09:19 AM   #13
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Why is there shift work in the first place? What is it with the jobs that require it?

There is a department where I work that does shift work, and when I asked why, they had no reason for it--"it's just the way we do it": 3 12s, 4 days off; 4 12s, three days off, repeat for three months; switch to nights and repeat cycle. The employees all love it. They are all a crazy bunch, but I assume that is the nature of the business, not the schedule.
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Old 06-16-10, 10:12 AM   #14
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Why is there shift work in the first place? What is it with the jobs that require it?
at the hospital where I was working, it just allowed them to keep staff to a minimum. simple greed at the expense of quality care, which made it amazing that they were/are a top hospital. (my unit was consistently in the top ten in the country for acute rehab) anyway, see ya, and I wouldn't want to be ya, I like my current situation much, much more.
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Old 06-16-10, 12:53 PM   #15
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The shift work in this case exists because the electric grid needs someone babysitting it 24/7. I think it's hard to find operators who want to JUST work night work (it's boring, the grid doesn't do much at night, not much load) so they make it 3 week shifts.

If I could convince them to just give me day shifts, lol.

This thread is very representative of what I've heard from people I work with and friends I know. Half the people (people who have done this exact job or worked with the people doing this job) say it's an awesome job. The other half tell me I'm insane for considering it and shift work is awful.

I think I need some more information. I really wish I could try the shift out for a couple months without a 2 year commitment.
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Old 06-16-10, 01:07 PM   #16
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The shift work in this case exists because the electric grid needs someone babysitting it 24/7. I think it's hard to find operators who want to JUST work night work (it's boring, the grid doesn't do much at night, not much load) so they make it 3 week shifts.
We have a department with an overnight shift--same people every night forever--and guys fight over who gets to work it permanently. Who would of thought?
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