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What Is a Swing Shift Schedule and What Are its Benefits?

What Is a Swing Shift Schedule and What Are its Benefits?

You’ve likely heard of the day and night shifts, but what about the hours in between? Workers covering these shifts may get more sleep than night shift workers and enjoy a more flexible schedule.

Find out what a swing shift is, what hours the schedule entails, and how taking on this position can benefit you as an employee.

What is a swing shift: Swing shift definition

The official swing shift definition is the work shift between day and night. There is also a secondary definition of swing shift, which refers to a group of factory workers on call seven days a week who work as necessary. This allows the regularly scheduled workers to have one or more days off per week without halting production.

Typical swing shift hours

When a swing shift occurs between the day and night shifts, the hours are commonly 4 pm-12 am. This relieves day shift workers in time to commute home for dinner while allowing night shift workers to get some rest before starting their workday at midnight.

Businesses centered around customer service also commonly use swing shifts to supplement their peak hours. For example, if a restaurant is open from 7 am-11 pm, the manager might schedule three employees to work the day shift (7 am-3 pm) and another three to work the evening shift (3 pm-11 pm).

If that restaurant experiences a high volume of customers during lunch and dinner, the manager might add a swing shift from 1 pm-8 pm, where one or two additional workers help cover tables.

How is a swing shift different from a rotating shift?

While a swing shift often refers to a specific shift between day and night shifts, a rotating shift schedule is entirely different. In a swing shift schedule, employees with frequently arranged day and night shifts and swing shift laborers cover additional hours or assist during the busiest times of the day.

Rotating shifts are when nobody has a set day or night shift; all employees frequently cycle through the various scheduled shifts. Rotating shift schedules are common in several industries, such as:

Health care (nurses)

Retail (sales associates)

Emergency services (police, paramedics)

In a revolving shift schedule, all employees have equal opportunity. For example, all sales associates have a chance to work the floor during peak hours, or all police officers have the chance to work the day shift, which may be less stressful than the night shift in some cities.

In a swing shift scenario, the employees working these off-peak hours cannot experience working the typical day or night shift. In this sense, working a swing shift provides more firmness in your schedule than a rotating shift system.

The Benefits of working the swing shift

There are 3 million Americans working night shifts and 4 million working the evening or swing shift at their workplaces. So what motivates a million more employees to take on the swing shift rather than the night shift? There are plenty of benefits to accepting a job with these hours.

Higher pay and incentives

There’s no assurance of higher pay for swing shift employees. Still, many companies offer modest wages and advantages as part of a swing shift package to entice employees into working these off-peak hours. These pay differentials are designed to compensate staff for working outside regular workweek hours. A 2010 survey found that workers on the third shift of the day are consistently paid more than those working the second shift.

Less traffic on your commute

Working an evening shift means skipping the chaos of a morning commute and traditional rush hour traffic. While the average American spends 2.5 work weeks of traffic annually, you can avoid this time-consuming inconvenience when you work off-peak shifts.

Though workers commuting to their evening shift around 3 pm might find themselves at the beginning of evening rush hour, they can expect an easy commute home. Rush hour typically ends for the night by 7 pm.

No early mornings

A swing shift might be perfect for your body’s internal clock if you’re not a morning person. Avoid early mornings when your shift doesn’t start until 4 pm. Enjoy a leisurely morning and take the day to run errands or complete personal projects before reporting to work for the evening.

More sleep than a night shift

Employees working the swing or evening shift are more likely to get better sleep than those working the night shift. The body operates in a circadian rhythm or 24-hour cycle. The natural body clock is set by sun exposure, so the human body is naturally sleepy at night when the sun goes down. For this reason, night-shift workers may struggle to get sufficient rest during the daytime.

When working a swing shift, employees are still off in enough time to go to sleep between midnight and 3 am, allowing them to fall asleep when it’s dark and wake to natural sunlight in the late morning.

The disadvantages of a swing shift

Though there are plenty of benefits to working the swing shift, there are a few disadvantages for the employee.

Less time with family or friends

If the employee does most of their socializing over dinner in the evening, a swing shift can negatively impact their social life. Working the evening shift means visiting loved ones during the day, which can be challenging if they’re working regular daytime shifts.

No free time after their shift

To make a swing shift worthwhile, most people must go to bed when they get home from work and get up in the morning to start their day. This means most of your employee’s free time is during the day before their shift rather than when they finish work, which is the opposite of most people’s working daytime hours.

More challenging to get time off

Since swing shift hours aren’t as popular among most working adults, it can be challenging to get time off if they can’t find someone to cover their shift.

Adjust their sleeping and eating habits.

Working the swing shift gives employees the flexibility to do whatever they want during the day, but it also means they must adjust their meal times and sleep schedule accordingly. Though it’s not for everyone, these adjustments may improve sleep habits for naturally night owls who enjoy going to bed late and sleeping in.


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