Swing Shift Schedule | 7 mins read

What is a Swing Shift Schedule and Why Does it Matter?

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Lauren Christiansen

By Lauren Christiansen

Swing Shift Schedule - What it is and Why it Matters

The typical employee work schedule is Monday-Friday, 8-5 p.m. Overtime hours and different start times are common, depending on the hours of operations. New hires who are accustomed to a normal type of schedule may find it difficult to adapt to a swing shift.

This type of rotating shift schedule occurs when team members work at different times during the day or evening. Businesses that operate on a 24/7 cycle hire swing shift workers to accommodate customers and increase profits. While a swing shift schedule isn't for everyone, many employees prefer the variety of hours and shifts they receive.

Read ahead to learn more about how swing shift schedules work and how different industries utilize them to streamline operations.

1. How Swing Shifts Work

Companies across the United States vary in how they optimize employee scheduling. Full-time employees may work an eight-hour shift schedule in the early morning, mid-day, or during the graveyard shift. Organizations only care that there are employees available to cover all hours of business operations.

Businesses may schedule more teams at one time and less at others. Typically, there are fewer night shift workers and more employees during the day. If the organization operates globally, it may assign more team members to the evening hours. Here are a few of the most popular swing shift schedules -

  • Employees work an eight-hour fixed shift during the morning, mid-afternoon, or evening.
  • Team members work four ten-hour shifts in a row and then take three days off.
  • Employees work twelve-hour shifts with a few days off after the shifts are complete

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2. Types of Swing Shifts

The types of swing shifts also include -

  • Afternoon Shift - Shift workers start work after 3 p.m. and end at midnight
  • First Shift - Similar to a regular business. Hours begin around 8 a.m. and end at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m.
  • Second Shift - Similar to the afternoon shift. Typically begins around 3 p.m. or 4 p.m.
  • Third Shift - Starts after the second shift ends. Times will vary
  • Fixed Shift - Employees work the same morning shift, afternoon shift, or night shift each day for a set period.
  • Split Shift - A team member works two shifts in one day, but receives a break in between shifts. The break is typically around 3 hours, depending on business requirements.

Who Uses Swing Shifts?

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Not every business needs a swing shift worker. Most office-related companies operate on a normal schedule and don't require anyone to be there during the evening. Some of the latter businesses may require a few workers to stay after the business closes.

For example, a printing company needs members of the manufacturing team to work during the night shift because of the many time-sensitive contracts with clients around the world.

Other industries always require swing shifts to maintain and streamline operations. Here are the top industries that employ swing shift workers.

  • 15% of full-time and salaried employees work a swing shift schedule
  • Of 27 million employees who are in managerial or professional work, only 1.3% work night shifts
  • Of 11 million service workers, 6% work the night shift
  • Of the 14 million operators and laborers, 7.4% work the night shift

1. Retail Industry Utilizes Swing Shift Schedules

Groceries and other large box stores need to stock shelves throughout the night to ensure everything is ready for the morning. Other retailers are open at odd hours and need employees present to handle customers. Retailers usually have employees work different swing shifts, rather than stay on a fixed schedule.

This enables team members to increase their expertise and share peak/undesirable hours. It also improves collaboration and employee morale. Finally, team members will receive frequent breaks from night shifts. They will receive the sleep they need to optimize internal circadian rhythms and focus on the job.

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2. Hospitality Utilizes Swing Shift Schedules

The restaurant industry utilizes swing shifts, depending on their hours of operations. Some restaurants open very early in the morning to prepare food and receive incoming supplies. Team members need to be there to ensure these tasks are complete in a timely fashion.

Other small diners are open all night long, which requires night shift workers. Managers in the restaurant industry usually refer to swing shifts as working doubles.

3. Healthcare Industry Utilizes Swing Shift Schedules

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Employees in the health care industry are well versed in swing shift schedules. People need to go to the hospital on Christmas or at 3 a.m. on a Sunday. Nurses and doctors may work anywhere from three days in a row to seven days in a row. They then have several days off to rest and recharge.

Because it's so taxing to work in the healthcare industry, hospitals need to regularly check in with workers to ensure they receive enough rest to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle.

  • Health care workers constitute approximately 12% of the total workforce in the United States
  • 35% of healthcare practictioners work on a weekend day
  • Those in healthcare are more likely to work before 10 a.m. and 5 a.m. than in other industries

4. Public Safety Utilizes Swing Shift Schedules

Just as in healthcare, law enforcement and firehouses stay open late at night. Police may work a fixed schedule from 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. to ensure someone is available for public emergencies. Or, team members may switch back and forth to work different schedules.

The hours that public safety officials work may depend on seniority and experience. And unlike other industries, police and firehouses often need just as many workers during the night as in the day.

5. Customer Service Utilizes Swing Shift Schedules

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Some organizations need to schedule customer service team members at night. This is particularly true for companies that work with customers around the world. Maintenance crews also use swing shifts to assist customers as required. For example, a repairman may be on call in case a tenant needs an emergency repair.

6. Transportation Utilizes Swing Shift Schedules

Flight training companies, air traffic controllers, pilots, and any other logistical companies utilize swing shifts. These types of companies operate around the clock and transport customers or goods from one location to another. Truck drivers utilize swing shifts because evening time is the quietest and safest time to drive a large vehicle.

Flight attendants are available for late-night trips across the country. These employees often work fixed shifts or sporadic schedules, depending on the routes and times of their trips.

  • Over 13.3 million people work in transportation in the United States
  • Delivery truck drivers, school bus drivers, and sales workers account for 36% of total transportation-related work
  • Marine, road and rail, and transportation infrastructure are all considered transportation-related employment

Example of Swing Shift Schedule

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An example helps to understand how swing shift schedulesmight work in the real world. Here is how public safety officials and the healthcare industry may create the work schedules of a police officer and doctor -

A police officer works four days in one week. On Monday, she works from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., then works from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday. On Wednesday, she works from 12 a.m. to 8 a.m. She receives a total of three days off and then repeats these same working days the next week.

A doctor works 10-hour days 3 days per week. He works on Monday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., On Tuesday, he works from 1 a.m. to 11 a.m. On Wednesday, he works from 9 p.m. to 7 a.m. He then receives four days off and repeats the same work hours the following week.

Key Takeaways of Swing Shift Schedules

In conclusion, here is what to know about swing shift workers -

  • Types of swing shifts include afternoon shift, first shift, second shift, third shift, fixed shift, and split shift.
  • Industries that utilize swing shifts include retail, hospitality, healthcare, customer service, public safety, and transportation.
  • Employees will either work an eight-hour fixed shift during any time of the day, work four ten-hour shifts in a row and then take 3 days off, or a few 12-hour shifts with a couple of days off in between.
  • Swing shifts ensure businesses have employees during all hours of operations. These types of schedules are not for everyone, as they can impact work-life balance and quality of sleep.

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