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What is a Swing Shift (includes Examples and Benefits)


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A regular 9 – 5 working schedule isn’t for everyone, businesses and employees alike. Some people cannot work with that schedule due to preferences but others out of necessity. Therefore, while some companies may thrive on 9-5, yours might not. 

When implemented correctly, swing shifts can boost your organization’s productivity, especially if it runs on a 24/7 cycle. Moreover, it reduces employee burnout, and workplace stress, as 83 percent of U.S. workers suffer from it. 

The swing shift working schedule also enables team members to readily meet customers’ needs and get business operations going round-the-clock. For this reason, many employers prefer its flexibility over traditional regular hours.  

What companies and industries can benefit from this working schedule? And how can you make the most of it? Well, read on to find out. 

What is a Swing Shift?

Swing shifts are work schedules or work shifts that cover the late afternoon/evening to late night hours of the typical 9-5 workday. In other words, it is the work shift between day and night shifts. 

Typical swing shift hours start at 4 pm. But, depending on the organization’s needs, industry, and location, variations can fall anywhere from 2 pm to midnight. 

For example, rather than working regular hours, social work employees may cover additional hours in intervals between; 

  • 2 pm to 10 pm

  • 3 pm to 11 pm

  • 4 pm to midnight

  • 5 pm to 1 am. 

Swing shift workers typically come in to replace those who started in the morning, and a third shift will take over for the late night and early morning. The third shift is also known as the graveyard shift or night shift.

What is the Purpose of Swing Shift?

The purpose of a swing shift is to supplement and sustain business operations off the regular working hours. This schedule is common in industries that require round-the-clock operations, like manufacturing, health care, transportation, and hospitality. 

How do Swing Shift Schedules Work?

The swing shift schedule depends on efficient work scheduling, with each organization doing theirs differently. 

However, the general idea is your business operations would not only operate on regular work hours (i.e., 8 am to 4 pm or 9 am to 5 pm). There’ll always be employees on the ground to swing by to cover the peak hours between and after the regular work hours.

For example, if you run a hospice, essential personnel must be available at all times, whether day or night shift. With a swing shift schedule, you could rotate this personnel to maximize output 24/7. 

Some could work mornings; 8 am – 3 pm, and another set could cover for late afternoons; 3 pm – 11 pm, and the third shift workers can sign in at 11 pm – 8 am.      

What are the Benefits and Drawbacks of Swing Shifts?

There are perks and drawbacks to implementing a swing shift schedule. We’ll discuss how shift work affects both companies and their employees below. 

For Companies

Some benefits and drawbacks include;  

  • They can run longer hours to accommodate customers’ needs.

  • Increased operational efficiency 

  • Opportunity for increased revenue and productivity. 

Furthermore, swing shift schedules also boost morale and collaboration. Having employees pick desirable shifts and take turns on less desirable ones reduces the chances of animosity between swing shift employees. 

But even with these benefits, you might encounter confusion in scheduling shifts, especially if you run a large workforce. Also, if there are last-minute shift cover requests, getting other people to cover the shift might be hard.

For Employees

Employees are not left from the ups and downs of swing shift schedules. 

Regarding benefits, many companies may offer higher wages and incentives to entice workers to sign up for swing shifts. However, this doesn’t apply to every position. 

For instance, it’s not uncommon for flight crew and medical professionals to work odd hours without any additional compensation.

The swing shift also provides equal working opportunities, flexible working hours, and relatively better working conditions. For instance, night shifts are quieter, giving third-shift workers some breathing space. 

Fewer people around also mean employees get an easier commute back home and skip rush-hour traffic. 

Ideally, these benefits are great. But things happen, and sometimes, finding someone to cover a shift might be challenging because it’s inconvenient. 

This rotating shift might also negatively impact employees’ sleeping and eating habits, as they could work and eat at odd hours. 

How Does a Typical Swing Shift Look?

Swing shifts follow several-hour patterns. The pattern may differ depending on what industry your company falls into or how large your workforce is. 

Swing shift patterns could be fixed business days or different 8-hour shifts for the morning, evening, or overnight. It could also be a back-to-back 12-hour shift with a few days off or four straight 10-hour shifts, with three days off, after four work days. 

Swing shift hours

Each company’s structure and mode of operation are different. But many companies typically use these hours/schedules;

  • Afternoon Shift: Employees start at 2 pm and work till midnight. 

  • First Shift: This is similar to traditional business hours, with employees working from 9 am to 5 pm.

  • Second Shift: This shift usually begins at 3 pm or 4 pm.

  • Third Shift: It starts when the second shift ends. If that’s midnight, that’s when the third shift workers clock in.

  • Fixed Shift: An employee works a fixed pattern of hours on the same schedule. For instance, they may work the third shift 5 days a week.

  • Split Shift: A split shift is when employees work two short shifts in one day. They might work from 9 am to 1 pm and again from 5 pm to 9 pm.

Employees typically receive their schedules in advance to prepare for their swing shifts. While some employers keep workers on the same schedule, others might rotate the schedules every week or month. 

Swing shift example

For a 24-hour grocery store operating on a swing shift, the manager could schedule the employees’ shifts from 8 am – 4 pm and 4 pm -12 am. The employees that come in during these shifts can attend to customers. 

While other employees can come in between 12 am – 8 am to do inventory and restock the shelves. 

The manager can also switch the schedule so employees that stocked the shelves the previous day can work at the checkout counter at a different time the next day, and so on.

Industries Where Swing Shifts are Used

In a nutshell, shift work schedules are used in industries and companies requiring a 24-hour operation. Some of them include;

Public Health and Safety: Workers in emergency services like firefighters, paramedics, and police officers need swing shift hours to protect and care for the public.

Hospitality: Restaurants, casinos, and hotels hire employees to work swing shift hours because they serve guests throughout the day and night. 

Retail: Retailers need swing shift workers to stay competitive and accommodate walk-in customers. Their swing shift workers stock the shelves with products for customers who buy at night or the next day.

Customer Service: Customer service employees work day and night shifts to ensure there’s someone available to attend to customers’ needs. 

Health Care: Employees in health care need swing shift hours to treat patients who need immediate medical attention. The number and timing of their shifts depend on the number of medical personnel employed at the facility. 

Administrative staff also need to be available to check in patients whenever they arrive.

Swing Shift: Wrap Up

Some companies and businesses can only reach their true potential on a 24-hour operational basis. If yours falls under this category, you’ll need a swing shift schedule to keep things running smoothly.

This will ensure you meet customer demand, maximize output and productivity and remain competitive. Swing shift also offers your employees flexibility and a good work-life balance. 

That said, this work schedule is unconducive for people with a sleeping disorder or whose bodies need additional sleeping hours to perform optimally.

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