6 things you really need to stop saying to shift workers.

Being a shift worker is akin to being a parent trying to educate a non-parent about what your life looks like. 

It's....sigh. It's hard, okay?

For those who've never worked an overnight shift, it's hard to explain the level of bonkers you feel by about 4am in the morning. 

I worked around-the-clock hours for five years in my early journalism career, and I like to describe my constant waking state during that time as a mixture of jetlag and feeling hungover. 

Watch: The Star Signs When There's A Problem At Work. Post continues after video.

Video via Mamamia.

There are upwards of 1.4 million shift workers in this country in all sorts of professions including, emergency services, hospitals, airports, security guards, hotel staff, chefs - to name just a few.

Yes, we chose this. Yes, we see you parents of small humans, (some of us do shifts and parent. Double joy.) Yes, there are different perks like being able to go to the shops when they're empty, and run errands when the post office/hairdresser/bank is open. 

But this is a safe space, and we just need a lil moment to vent freely, if we may. 

So here are the things that, (and sorry, we do lump you all in as '9-5ers') complain about that really.....makes our eyes twitch. 

1. When you don't understand the concept of shift all. holidays are not for the whole public.

"The bafflement of people when they go 'how was your Christmas and New Year's Eve?' And you reply 'I worked both, but great thanks' absolutely drives me wild. I get that people think the world stops on holidays, but so many of us need to keep going to keep it spinning, and the pity and confusion is s**thouse" - Tara.


"That people think public holidays apply to all the public. Ahhh nope." - Sarah.

"People thinking I have the 'day off' directly after night shift. B**ch my night shift is 9pm-7:30am so technically I worked 7.5hrs on my ‘day off’." - Shan.

"People who try to call you in the middle of the day, even though they know you are on night shift. I have offered to give them a call at 2am so they can see what it is like." - Lynda.

"Honestly thinking working a shift job is 'the worst' and 'not normal/not fair.' But... how else will anything get done?" - Nekkita.

"Trying to organise a time to go on a date 'Just come after work!' Um at 12am?!" - Katie.

"I got shamed for not 'making an effort' to go to a baby shower between two night shifts. The shower was at 2pm (and my 2pm is your 2am)." - Elise.

"My husband is a shift worker. People say to me all the time things along the lines of ‘I’d lose my shit if my partner was asleep at 1pm, you should just wake him up’ and ‘can’t he sleep later?’ I wouldn’t be impressed if he woke me at 2am because he wanted a hand lifting something, so why would I do that to him in the middle of his sleep? But they never get it." - Rachael. 

"Why are you having an alcoholic beverage at 8am?" - Sammii.

2. When you can't understand the idea of a roster/the parameters of my chosen career.

No, I can't just....chuck a....sickie.

"When people plan an event last minute and expect you to attend but then get upset because you're rostered to work. Even though I’ve been working shift work on a roster that’s out four-six weeks in advance for years and I need notice to be able to request the dates off." - Rosemary.


"My husband is a chef and we own a restaurant so late nights, early mornings, split shifts, weekends, public holidays and school holidays. I hate it when people ask why he can’t have just rostered himself off for events. It doesn’t work like that, he needs to be there when it’s busy." - Dempsey.

"I work a rolling shift.. so never the same days/nights... I 'love' (not) hearing 'oh well I'm sure you get heaps of money/overtime working on the public holiday'... spoiler it's all the same rate. It's called a salary." - Viv.

"People who complain about weddings mid-week because they have to get a day off work. Anyone who works weekends has to get a day off work for a weekend wedding." - Sarah.

"I have found it really frustrating this past year hearing talk of workplace flexibility changes due to lockdown. Umm, not for those of us in healthcare or other essential services. I often hear people talking as if everyone has a 9-5 which is flexible and lets them work from home. But that's definitely not the case for many people." Kate.

"When people say ‘night shifts suck, they take years of your life you should stop doing them’ when I complain about being on night shifts. Do you think I would choose to do night shifts if I could drop them?" - Soumya.

"The assumption that some people choose to work hours that are incompatible with family life when some people take what they can get." - Kirrily.

3. Yes everyone is tired, but this is a different kind of tired.

What day is it?

"When people say 'I hardly slept all night' when you actually didn’t sleep all night." - Danielle.


"When I drop my son at school in the morning and say 'see you tomorrow morning,' people look at me strange. Or when people say 'oh I didn’t get to bed until 11pm last night.' Um, I was still at work then." - Lissy.

"When you're on a run of night shifts and people say 'wow so you slept ALL DAY?' Well no. I showered, ate, slept, ate and tried to put some sort of order in my house and family and then drove to work, repeat. Somehow with all the tossing turning and house comings and going’s, I managed a whole six hours sleep. That’s my golden number for night shift." - Kirsten.

"I’m a nurse and worked permanent nights when my kids were little. Doing the school drop off at 8.30am, sometimes having to sit through an assembly after a night shift and then being back at school for the 3pm pick up and another parent asks 'if you slept.' You say from about 9:30 til 2pm. And they say 'ah that’s pretty good'. And you want to say 'if you went to bed at 9:30pm and got up at 2am would you consider that a good sleep?' But on the upside, I was able to attend all the assemblies and do the pick-ups. Used to hate getting ready for work when my other half was settling down in front of the telly with a wine." - Sarah.

"When I mention I did a night shift people ask at the school gate at 3pm, what time I slept until. I say 2pm. And they say 'oh that's not bad then'. I think 'What?!'" - Renee.

"The assumption that as nurses on night duty we can sleep because the patients do." - Angela.

"When I was an RN it would make me angry when I would chat with someone on the phone in the evening before I went to work a night shift (mostly my mum), and they would complain about being tired. I would roll my eyes and think oh lucky you’ll be in bed in a few hours." - Carly

4. Please stop dissing my penalty rates, thanks.

Step away from my money.....

"When 9-5ers don’t think penalty rates are important because it is a '24 hour society'. No - actually I give up my weekends and public holidays for a reason not to make your life more convenient. (Don’t get my wrong I like shift work for that exact reason. But if I wasn’t paid extra I wouldn’t bother so much.)" - Dee.


"People who say and actually believe we should not pay penalty rates because we live in a 24 hour society. Um..... NO. There is no 24 hour society and there definitely is no 24 hour cities in Australia. Ever tried to get your car rego organised with the mechanic at 4am? Or get a childcare centre to open up so you can go to your night shift?" - Brett.

"I get really upset when people talk about how shift loading should not be a thing. I mean, the main positive about working when everyone else you know is asleep/ partying/ spending time with their family while you're at work is the shift loading." - Renee.

"Leave loading was designed for shift workers but then blue collar got on board and now they get paid more on holidays than when working, unlike shift workers who barely get their regular wage when on holidays." - Patricia.

5. Also, please stop mentioning the word 'weekend'.

I am so happy for you and all of 

"People that complain that you always turn down weekend events...they won’t come out on a weekday but expect you to come out on a weekend." - Louise.

"People who think it is okay for you to just 'chuck a sickie' to go to their event on a weekend." - Emily.

"I find it frustrating when people suggest I find a Monday - Friday job so I'm available for them on weekends, but they also tell me it makes them jealous that I'm able to do things mid-week when it's less busy....So which is it?" - Amanda.

"I work in the land sales industry and we are required to work both Saturday and Sunday. Without fail on Monday morning the 9-5ers would ask ‘what did you get up to on the weekend/how was your weekend?’. It was just a standard question and no doubt to be polite but it makes my blood boil. I didn’t have a weekend, I worked all weekend." - Anna.


"Cyclists on Sundays... mate it's great you have a lazy Sunday but the hoard of you going 20km in my 80km zone after a 10 hour Saturday night shift in Emergency makes me want to get all of your mothers numbers and ask her how she raised such inconsiderate and selfish Lycra wearing a**holes." - Kallie.

6. Stop telling me I am lucky. Or lazy.

How do you not....get this.

"People saying I wish 'I had so many days off'..... after I have worked four 12-hour shifts and I’d have a couple of days off (during the week)." - Ruth.

"I have a small business and I work from home. I love when people say how lucky I am to be able to be so flexible... tell that to my kids when they miss out on play dates cause I’m working or hubby when I’m up working at midnight three-four nights a week. I’d love a good 9-5 where I could go home and leave work at work." - Belinda.

"People say you have 'more time because your day isn’t taken up'...Like, what? I work while you’re sleeping?" - Lily.

"How people give you the ‘must be nice to not work’ look because you’re sleeping till 1pm (because you finished at 6am.)" - Theresa.

"A tradesman asked why I am home during the week. I told him it was my four days off (after working four 12-hour shifts). He looked at me like I was a total loser and said 'and you're just hanging around here doing nothing? I’d be going away on a holiday.' Like you can just pop off on holidays every days' off..." - Kim

Feature image: Getty.