Night Shift: Pros and Cons

So, a little while ago, the program that I’m working for had a HUGE and VERY IMPORTANT deadline. We were kind of rushing to get everything ready by then, so we wanted someone working on the hardware 24/7. However, because there were only really two people that could do that (myself and my supervisor), that meant that I was put on a 12-hour night shift (10pm to 10am) for about a week .

So, I thought I’d share some of the pros and cons of that experience.

Cons:

  • You never quite know what day it is. When you work over the transition between one day and the next, your internal calendar kind of quits on you. “So, I was working on fixing that error last night . . . yesterday, I mean. Oh, wait. I guess it was technically this morning, but I’ve gotten eight hours of sleep since then, so . . .”
  • Finding food is difficult. Either you’ve packed a lunch, or you hope that there is a Denny’s or something close by. I couldn’t even go out to the local IHOP, though, since I couldn’t leave the hardware alone for any length of time, so I kind of lived off of frozen meals. Even now, I keep an emergency can of soup at my desk in case I get pulled on to a weird shift unexpectedly.
  • If you get stuck on a problem, there is no one to ask for help. You either have to hit your head against a wall trying to solve it, or you find a way to work around it until the morning when everyone else shows up.
  • It gets rather lonely when you have to spend 10+ hours not talking to anyone. You can’t go out to lunch with people, because no one else is having lunch at midnight, and you can’t call up one of your friends to chat. Also, the next day, you have to turn down invitations to lunch because that’s when you go home to sleep.
  • When everyone else comes in the next morning all fresh-faced and rested and in their nice clothes, you feel horrible in comparison, because you’ve come off your huge shift and are tired, rumpled, and starting to get cranky.

Pros:

  • There is no one else there to watch you or make you behave. I did a lot of singing/humming/talking to myself. And, since the lab floor is nice and smooth, I would occasionally break out into dancing. It was amusing, especially at 3am when I was really feeling the boredom. I also got to wear whatever I wanted. This means that, instead of business casual, I was just plain casual (and more comfortable because of it).
  • When I made mistakes (and, trust me, I made a lot of them), I got to fix them/cover them up before anyone else saw them. It can be kind of embarrassing when you compile and find that, ooops, you forgot a semicolon at the end of one line of code and now you’ve got fifty error messages. On night shift, you can take the ten minutes to find and fix the error so that your supervisor only gets to see the nice pretty finished product when he walks in in the morning.
  • Since you’re working a shift directly  opposite of everyone else, traffic is never an issue. Rush hour traffic never affects you. And, when you get to work, you can park as close to the building as you want, since everyone else has already left for home. Also, since you’re already in the office come morning, you’re never late for the 9am meeting.
  • Once, my supervisor took pity on me, and brought in coffee and pastries when he came in for work in the morning. We sat through the morning phone conference munching on croissants.

All that being said, it was an interesting and informative experience. I encourage everyone to try it at least once, if they can.

Until next week.

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