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What Is a Swing Shift?

Posted by Glassdoor Team

Career Advice Experts

Last Updated August 5, 2021

Guide Overview

What is a swing shift?How does a swing shift work?Common careers that use swing shiftExamples of swing shift schedules

Guide Overview

Swing shift schedules in the workplace

When applying for new jobs, you may come across a position that requires swing shift hours. This type of schedule is different from the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday and isn't for everyone. Understanding how swing shift schedules work will ensure you know what will be expected of you if you accept a swing shift job. Here we explore what a swing shift is, how swing shifts work, common careers that use swing shift schedules, and examples of what a swing shift schedule looks like.

What is a swing shift?

A swing shift is when an employee works at different intervals throughout the day and night. For example, rather than working a traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday, you may work from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. one day, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. the next day, and 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. after that. Swing shift schedules are most common in organizations that require continuous operations throughout the day and night. Companies require swing shift hours to ensure that productivity remains stable throughout the day and night and that services are available to meet the needs of their clients.

Each swing shift schedule will vary, and some companies offer the choice of different shifts or provide flexibility so you can choose certain shifts on certain days to accommodate your home life and other responsibilities. Some people find swing shifts very convenient and even prefer to work hours that are outside of the more traditional workday.

How does a swing shift work?

Each organization will vary in exactly how their swing shift schedules work, but most companies typically offer the following shift schedules:

  • Eight-hour shifts that are either fixed or rotating and are either in the morning, evening, or overnight
  • Four consecutive 10-hour shifts with three days off after the four days are completed
  • 12-hour shifts with several days off after each shift

There are also several different types of swing shifts, including:

  • Afternoon shifts: This refers to a shift where employees begin work around 3 p.m. and work until midnight.
  • First shift: This shift is typically similar to more traditional business hours, such as 8 or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Second shift: This shift is similar to the afternoon shift and typically begins around 3 or 4 p.m.
  • Third shift: This shift begins when the second shift ends. So, if the second shift ends at 10 p.m., the third shift will begin at 10 p.m. and end around 6 a.m.
  • Fixed shift: This type of shift is when employees work the same schedule on one type of shift. For example, an employee may always work first shift.
  • Split shift: A split shift refers to when an employee works two shifts in one day that are broken up. For example, an employee may work 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then work again from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Most employees will receive their swing shift schedules in advance so they can properly plan their days to accommodate their hours. Some employees work set swing shift hours, while others may have a different schedule each week or month.

Common careers that use swing shift

There are several industries in which swing shift schedules are common. These include:

  • Retail: Many grocery stores and big-box companies rely on swing shift employees to keep their shelves stocked so the store is ready when customers arrive each morning. Additionally, some stores are open late into the night or even 24 hours a day, so employees need to be present around-the-clock to accommodate customers. Employees will often work several different shifts that vary from week to week or month to month in retail.
  • Hospitality: Hospitality establishments like restaurants, casinos, and hotels are open late into the night or 24 hours a day and need employees to be present to see to customers. Split swing shifts are especially common in restaurants and are referred to as ‘working doubles’ by employees and managers.
  • Healthcare: Healthcare facilities like hospitals, emergency rooms, and hospice centers must have employees working 24 hours a day to ensure patients are taken care of. Employees, such as nurses and doctors, may work several eight or 10-hour shifts in a row and then have several days off, or they may work one or two 12-hour shifts and then have several days off.
  • Public safety: Public safety entities, such as firehouses and police stations, often have swing shift schedules for their employees. For example, a police officer may work night shifts from midnight to 8 a.m. to be available to assist people in danger or in need.
  • Customer service: Several organizations hire customer service employees to work around-the-clock to ensure someone is always available to assist customers. For example, a maintenance repair person may be on call throughout the night in case a tenant has an emergency maintenance issue that must be remedied immediately.
  • Transportation: Pilots, truck drivers, flight attendants, airport employees, and shipyard workers all typically work a swing shift schedule. This is because transportation services are around-the-clock services and there are always customers who need to be taken from one location to the next. Additionally, in the case of truck drivers, the roads are often less busy at night, making it easier for them to get from A to B in a timely manner.

Examples of swing shift schedules

The following are examples of swing shift schedules:

A firefighter works four days a week. The first day, he works from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., the next day, he works from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., and the day after that he works from midnight to 8 a.m. He then receives three days off and repeats the same swing shift the following week.

A nurse works 12-hour days three days a week. The first day, she works from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The next shift she has is from 12 p.m. to 12 a.m., and the following shift is from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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