Shifting to a brighter future

Working in shifts is a common practice in a wide range of fields and industries, such as healthcare, security, military, law enforcement, hospitality, media and transportation services.

For those affected, irregular hours are just the nature of the job. Working outside the normal nine-to-five schedule means adjusting to different sleeping and travelling patterns while also managing changes in one’s family and social life.

There are plenty of advantages for shift workers. Among others, they can avoid rush-hour traffic, run errands at off-peak times and enjoy a calmer and more focused work environment.

More importantly, shift workers also have ample learning opportunities, whether on the job or on a part-time basis. This allows them to find time to engage in various activities for personal enrichment.

This is crucial not only for professional development, but also to achieve work-life balance. Just as workers are expected to perform at their jobs, so too should they be given the chance to improve other aspects of their lives.

A 2018 report by TalentCorp Malaysia found that the majority of employers surveyed are not only supportive of improving work-life balance, but encourage it as a means to improve staff productivity. By allowing employees to pick up new skills and upgrade their qualifications, organisations can expect to nurture talent and in turn, boost employee retention.

In fact, many agree that employees across all industries need to upskill to keep up with rapid developments in the working world.

According to a 2017 Khazanah Research Institute report, 54% of the jobs in Malaysia will now be displaced by artificial intelligence and robotics in the next two decades. Coupled with the growing emphasis on soft skills and multidisciplinary knowledge, this clearly indicates that those hoping to stay ahead of the curve will need to find ways to remain relevant.

Whether hoping to be considered for a promotion or looking for a career change, one of the avenues that would best suit the educational needs of shift workers is part-time studies.

At Open University Malaysia (OUM), a blended learning approach ensures that no matter their work hours, learners can keep their jobs and study at the same time.

Learners decide when and where they can best learn, as multimedia-rich learning materials can be accessed on any device. Meanwhile, tutors and peers can be reached via online forums, which helps create a sense of community even when each person is on her own.

Classes and seminars take place only on weekends, which allows greater flexibility for those who are busy during the week. Alternatively, OUM also offers several fully online programmes, which allow learners to complete their studies entirely through e-lessons.

Many of our learners have proven that varying work schedules do not hamper their ability to study. Among shift workers who have benefited from the open and distance learning approach are those in the nursing profession.

Thus far, more than 3,500 nurses have successfully obtained their Bachelor of Nursing Science qualification at OUM, proving that with determination and discipline, even those working in shifts can succeed in their learning endeavours.

Ultimately, whether you are a stay-at-home mother, retiree, or one of the 15 million labour force in Malaysia, studying has the same goal. It is an investment towards a brighter future. With the right institution, the right programme and the most conducive learning environment, everyone can indeed make their dream a reality.

Published in The Star’s Postgraduate supplement on 16 April 2019