Most Effective Way to Communicate as a Shift Work Family

When you leave the house for a shift, without having the chance to see your family, what do you do? Send them a text with a smiling emoji? Call them when it’s time appropriate?

Or, do you leave them a thoughtful handwritten note?

Do you sometimes feel like ships in the night with your partner or spouse who works shift work? Or, may be you're the one working night shift. Here is our top tip to best communicate as a shift work family. | | #shiftwok #nightshift #shiftworkfamily #shiftworkrelationships

I know what your thinking, sitting down to consciously write a note, using an actual pen (you had to search high and low for), to your wife, husband or children seems a little silly.

Today’s technology allows us to communicate a heck of a lot faster and more efficiently then what my grandparents and even parents ever knew. Could that be a problem though? 

Is communication becoming so easy the intent of our message is becoming lost among the junk emails and the abundance of GIF’s?

Dan recently wrote me a simple, yet thoughtful note left on a container of leftovers in the fridge and I was surprised at how happy it made me feel. At the end of the day, wasn’t it was just a note, stuck with nursing tape, on leftover food? Or was it more than that?

It made me wonder about old-fashioned, handwritten notes and letters and how powerful a gesture it is to both give and receive.

Handwritten Notes, Shift Work and Your Family

What’s the big deal about a handwritten note to a shift worker and their family?

You might be thinking, why would I bother writing a note when I can just text it or better yet, send an emoji? It’s much quicker and they get the message anyway, right?

But just stop and think about that.

Don’t you want the communication with your kids or your partner to be meaningful and importantly different from the other conversations you have throughout the day?

When Dan left that note, he wouldn’t be doing that for a co-worker in the office and so it feels special. Unique. Personal.

A handwritten note STANDS OUT.

It is meaningful.

It shows that you took time and that you really care. For me, the power is in the subtext of the note.

Time, respect and love mean far more than the words written on the paper.

Trick to Best Communicate as a Shift Work Family - The Other Shift - note pad with flower and coffee.jpg

Benefits of a Handwritten Note for Shift Workers

  • Note and letter writing forces us to stop what we are doing and concentrate on one simple task

In a way, it’s a form on mindfulness. You may not have time to meditate (or, more accurately, you may choose not to do so). But if you regularly take the time to physically write a thank-you or love note you certainly will be engaging in this practice. 

It takes concentration, thoughtfulness about somebody else and reflection on what these relationships truly mean.

Some shift work professions make this, I’m going to call it ‘reflection time’, difficult and so letter writing forces us to put down our phones, get into the zone and focus on what’s important

  • It reminds us that the little things really do count

These small rituals can be like the glue that holds relationships together. 

  • Helps overcome feelings of isolation as a shift worker and also for their family 

It’s easy to send and receive a text, but it’s harder and more uncommon to receive a letter or even a note specifically addressed to you. 

Trick to Best Communicate as a Shift Work Family - Shift Work & Family Life_ Handwritten Notes are Back breakfast-in-bed-for-loved-one-The Other Shift

What to write to create and maintain strong shift work family relationships  

The idea (particularly for us shift workers) is to keep the conversation flowing with your family – even though you are not physically there to have it.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • ‘Inside jokes’ which nobody else will understand 
  • Notes of appreciation for supporting you
  • Thank you notes with specific reasons for why you value them
  • I love you notes
  • Notes of support for what that person has going on in their life – it’s not all about you at the end of the day!

NOTE: If you do need to tell them something logistical (a bit boring) about planning or organization, leave that to a text as you want this to be a little exciting to both give and receive.

Shift Work & Family Life_ Handwritten Notes are Back breakfast-in-bed-for-loved-one-Flower, note pad - The Other Shift

What You Need

This game is pretty simple – all you need is a paper and pen!

Some will dispute me when I say this, but I don’t think the quality of the paper or the pen really matters for us.

If you were writing a thank you note and posting it in the mail then the paper matters – however for us in this situation we don’t give two hoots!

I will say though, your kids may love a note with their favorite cartoon charter on it written in a glitter pen!

Shift Work | Signature | The Other Shift

Bring on the Note-Writing – Where Do I Start?

Focus for 10 minutes – I know you can do it – Put down your phone, turn off the T.V and concentrate. Give the person the time they deserve.


Social isolation and shift work can be a real thing, especially when working opposite shifts. A handwritten note may not instantly lead to more intimacy, but it can strengthen bonds within your marriage (as it has for us!) much tighter than a text. 

Some note locations could be:

  • Wife/husbands bedside table or pillow – it doesn’t need to be accompanied by a gift (but it can if you want).
  • As a joke in their breakfast cereal, in their car, on their toothbrush or attached to their phone
  • On leftovers in the fridge


Having a parent who works all hours can be confusing for the little ones. A handwritten note addressed specifically to them creates a special bond between you and them which can be treasured forever.   

If you’re feeling like the ultra-cool parent, try sending a real mailed letter with a stamp addressed to them. Kids very rarely get letters in the mail – maybe from Santa if he is super organized, so what a delight for them if you’re away doing a bunch of nights or on a trip for work purposes. 

Kids will hold on it and treasure your words (plus, it teaches them to read words which are not simply typed text).

Also, consider:

  • Placing a note in their car (if old enough to drive!)
  • Take them on a treasure hunt with your notes – great for birthday and Christmas if you happen to miss these important events.
Trick to Best Communicate as a Shift Work Family - Shift Work & Family Life_ Handwritten Notes are Back - kids-coloring-at-table - The Other Shift

Summary: Most Effective Way to Communicate as a Shift Work Family

The special art of letter writing is still alive! 

Working shift work and managing a family can be tough but it can also be fun!

Everyone wants to know they are being thought about in some way, even though distance and time are sometimes not on our side.

The power of a simple note is undeniable and I encourage you to pick up a pen and write a note you would want to receive.  

For those of us about to commence another set of night shifts or time away from your family, just try picking up a pen and writing that text message down on paper and see what happens. I bet you’ll like the outcome!


Emma signature |

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Are you working and living opposite shift with your partner and family? Revive your relatinships despite the distance and fall in love all over again. #shiftwork #shiftworklife #oppositeshift #shiftworkmarriage
When was the last time you picked up a pen and wrote anything more than a shopping list? I have witnessed and experienced first hand the power of a handwritten note when working long hours and spending too long away from my husband. Try this simple trick to reignite the love and connection within your shift work family and shift work relationships. It really works! #shiftwork #shiftworklife #oppositeshift #shiftworkmarriage #shiftworkwife
The Trick to Best Communicate as a Shift Work Family is the forgotten art of a handwritten note. Sounds annoying and not overly time efficient but means a heck of a lot more then a text or funny GIF. Bring your shift work marriage and shift work family closer then ever despite the distance. #shiftwork #shiftworklife #oppositeshift #shiftworkmarriage

Emma @ The Other Shift

Hey there! I'm Emma Smith a passionate, Registered Nurse from Australia. Together with my husband Daniel, we run The Other Shift. Our sole aim is to help shift workers and those on unusual schedules find balance between work and life. I understand the challenges of fitting in exercise, maintaining relationships and getting enough quality sleep, but I'm excited to show you that it’s possible to do shift work and still thrive. Read more about us and our story here.

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