Swing Shift Hours: Flexibility in the 24/7 Economy

swing shift night shifts third shift afternoon shift

This in-depth guide will help you understand swing shifts, their applications, and their implications for employees and businesses.

What is a swing shift?

A swing shift, also known as a second shift or afternoon shift, is a type of work schedule that typically begins in the mid to late afternoon and ends late in the evening.

This shift typically falls between a day shift, which usually runs from morning to early afternoon, and a night or graveyard shift, which runs from late evening to early morning.

How do swing shifts work?

Swing shift schedules work as a crucial bridge between day and night operations in many organizations. The typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday is just one part of the 24-hour cycle in today's global and interconnected economy. To ensure the continuity of operations beyond these traditional hours, swing shift employees step in just as the day shift draws to a close, keeping the work momentum until the night shift commences.

The specific hours for a swing shift can differ from one organization to another. However, a typical pattern observed is a swing shift from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. This shift design is indispensable in various sectors where consumer demands frequently extend beyond conventional business hours.

The operational blueprint of swing shifts may vary across different organizations. Most companies typically offer the following swing shift patterns and schedules:

Eight-hour shifts: These are fixed or rotating changes that can occur in the morning, evening, or overnight. This is the traditional work shift that most people are familiar with. For example, a swing shift worker on an eight-hour schedule might work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Four by Ten: This schedule consists of four consecutive 10-hour shifts and three days off. This model allows organizations to cover more extended hours in a day while giving employees a substantial break for rest and recovery. An example of this schedule might be from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Twelve-hour shifts: Workers on this rotating shift schedule might work for 12 hours straight, followed by several days off. This type of schedule is often used in sectors like healthcare and public safety, where round-the-clock coverage is essential. A swing shift worker on a twelve-hour program might work from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Therefore, swing shifts work to ensure continuous business operations, meeting consumer demands at all times and providing flexible working hours for employees who might not be able to work during traditional hours. They are an integral part of the workforce in today's world that operates 24/7.

Useful Read: Schedule Rotation Generator + FREE Template

Types of swing shift

There are several swing shifts which include:

Afternoon shift: This shift typically starts around 3 p.m. and ends at midnight. It is ideal for employees who prefer to work in the afternoon and evening hours.

First shift: This shift is similar to more traditional business hours, usually from 8 or 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is ideal for employees who prefer to work during the day.

Second shift: This shift is similar to the afternoon and typically begins around 3 or 4 p.m. It is ideal for employees who prefer to work in the afternoon and evening hours.

Third shift: This third shift workers often begins when the second shift ends, usually around 10 p.m., and ends around 6 a.m. It is ideal for employees who prefer to work overnight.

Fixed shift: This type of shift is when employees work the same schedule on one kind of shift, such as always working the first shift. It provides consistency and predictability for employees.

Split shift: A split shift is when an employee works two shifts in one day that are broken up, such as working from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then again from 6 p.m. to midnight. It allows employees to have a break in between shifts and can provide flexibility for personal responsibilities.

Useful Read: The 4-day work week schedule - An Implementation  Guide

Common industries using swing shifts

Portrait of a female doctor holding her patient chart on digital tablet in bright modern hospital-3

Many industries use the swing shift hours kind of arrangement. Some of them include:


The healthcare industry is a crucial sector where swing shifts are commonly utilized. Hospitals and medical facilities operate around the clock, providing care to patients all day and night.

As such, swing shift schedules are vital to ensure seamless patient care when the day shift ends and before the night shift begins. The healthcare industry includes hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and other medical facilities.


The hospitality industry also frequently employs swing shifts. Hotels, restaurants, event management companies, and other service-oriented businesses require staff availability during the peak evening hours. As such, swing shifts are key in maintaining high service standards during these high-traffic periods.

Customer services

In an increasingly interconnected and globalized world, customer service centers must support customers in different time zones. As such, swing shifts are common in this sector, ensuring customers receive assistance beyond traditional business hours.

Public safety

Public safety departments, such as emergency services such as fire and police departments, must operate 24/7 to ensure the safety and security of the public. Swing shifts are vital in these sectors, bridging the gap between the day and night shifts.

Advantages of swing shifts

Increased sleep compared to night shift workers

One advantage of swing shifts is the potential for improved sleep compared to those working night shifts. After a shift that ends late at night, swing shift workers can head home and immediately sleep.

This can help them align more closely with natural human circadian rhythms compared to night shift work, as people are biologically predisposed to sleep when it's dark.

As a result, swing shift workers might find they can achieve a more complete, restful sleep, increasing their alertness and productivity during work hours.

Potential financial benefits

Swing shifts can sometimes come with financial perks. Employers often provide shift differentials, which are increased pay rates for employees working non-traditional hours.

These additional earnings can make swing shifts more attractive to employees and serve as compensation for the unusual hours. This added income can be a significant advantage for many workers, helping them meet their financial goals more quickly or providing an extra budget cushion.

Convenient time for personal tasks

swing shifts fixed shift day and night shifts Swing shift schedules typically free up mornings, allowing employees to complete personal errands or tasks during regular work swing shift hours.

This can include banking, attending personal appointments, or even caring for household chores.

Having this time available can be a significant advantage, especially for tasks that would be difficult or impossible to complete during traditional working hours. These free morning hours can also be used for recreational activities or hobbies that an individual may not have time for otherwise.

Favorable working conditions

Swing shifts can sometimes offer more favorable working conditions. Since they fall after the typical 9-to-5 workday, these shifts can be less hectic due to reduced customer interactions or lower overall activity levels. In some cases, there may also be less direct supervision, giving employees greater autonomy and control over their work. This quieter, less crowded working environment can reduce work-related stress and make the job more enjoyable.

Lower commuting stress

Working swing shifts often means commuting during off-peak hours. This can result in less traffic on the roads and less crowded public transportation, leading to quicker, more comfortable, and less stressful journeys to and from work.

Access to daytime educational opportunities

For those looking to further their education or acquire new skills, swing shifts can offer the advantage of being able to attend daytime classes. Since many colleges and training programs offer classes during traditional working hours, those working the swing shift may have a greater range of educational opportunities.

Examples of swing shift schedules

These are a few examples where you can see how the swing shift hours work:

Firefighter's swing shift schedule:

A firefighter works four days a week, following a rotating swing shift schedule. In the first week, on Monday, the firefighter starts with a day shift from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., ensuring coverage during regular working hours.

The following Tuesday, the firefighter works the swing shift from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., providing coverage during the late afternoon and evening hours.

On Wednesday, the firefighter transitions to the night shift, working from midnight to 8 a.m. to cover the overnight period.

Following these three consecutive shifts, the firefighter receives three days off, allowing for rest and recovery. The swing shift schedule then repeats in the second week, maintaining coverage throughout different periods.

Nurse's swing shift schedule:

A nurse follows a swing shift schedule consisting of 12-hour shifts, working three days a week.

On the first day of the schedule, the nurse begins with a 12-hour day shift, starting at 8 a.m. and ending at 8 p.m. This ensures coverage during the daytime hours.

The following shift in the schedule takes place the next day, starting at noon and ending at midnight, providing coverage during the afternoon and evening hours.

On the third day of the schedule, the nurse works a 12-hour shift again, starting at 6 a.m. and ending at 6 p.m. This provides coverage during the early morning to late afternoon period.

Following these three consecutive shifts, the nurse receives several days off, allowing for sufficient rest before the next swing shift schedule begins.

Call center representative's swing shift schedule:


In the first week, they work from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., providing coverage during the afternoon and evening hours.

In the second week, they transition to the morning shift, working from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., providing coverage earlier in the day.

In the third week, they work from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., covering the later afternoon and evening hours.

This rotation allows for variety in the shift patterns and timings, ensuring the availability of representatives during different parts of the day.

Manufacturing worker's swing shift schedule:

They work from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. consistently throughout the week. This shift allows for a seamless transition and handover from the day shift workers to the night shift workers. It provides coverage during the late afternoon and evening hours when the production demands are typically high.

Security guard's swing shift schedule:

A security guard might follow swing shift schedules. In the first week, they work from 4 p.m. to 12 a.m., ensuring coverage during the afternoon and evening hours.

The second week, they work from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., covering the overnight hours. This rotating schedule allows for variety in shift timings, ensuring the presence of security personnel during different periods of the day and night.

These examples demonstrate the flexibility and adaptability of swing shift work schedules across various industries, allowing for coverage during different hours of the day or night based on the job's specific requirements.

Do swing shifts pay more?

Employees working swing shift hours often receive a shift differential or additional compensation for working outside regular business hours.

This might include additional hourly pay, a percentage of the employee's base pay, or a flat rate bonus for each shift outside regular company hours.

However, there's no guarantee of higher pay for swing shift workers. Still, many companies offer competitive wages and bonuses as part of a swing shift program to entice employees into working these off-peak hours.

Whether you get paid more for swing shift hours is primarily up to the employer.

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Final thoughts

Swing shift hours can provide a flexible work schedule for employees and help businesses maintain productivity and meet the needs of their customers.

While there is no guarantee of higher pay for swing shift employees, many companies offer competitive wages and bonuses to entice employees to work these off hours.

Ultimately, whether or not to work a swing shift is a personal decision that depends on individual circumstances and preferences.

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Topic: Work Shift
Rinaily Bonifacio

Written by:

Rinaily Bonifacio

Rinaily is a renowned expert in the field of human resources with years of industry experience. With a passion for writing high-quality HR content, Rinaily brings a unique perspective to the challenges and opportunities of the modern workplace. As an experienced HR professional and content writer, She has contributed to leading publications in the field of HR.


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