The Swing Shift Life: What You Should Know Working Unconventional Hours

Working from Monday to Friday and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. is most employees’ commonly known working day and hours. Most people shorten it as an expression “9 to 5”. It’s been a part of popular culture and common parlance that there is a Dolly Parton song and a 1980 comedy film with her entitled 9 to 5. But, when you go to coffee shops, restaurants, or any places open beyond these hours, you know some people don’t work the usual 9 to 5 work schedule; they work in swing shifts. So, what is swing shift?

The Swing Shift Life

What Is Swing Shift?

Defining swing shift might be tricky as the meaning varies considerably. Some jobs require their employees to be at work for 8 hours, but at odd times. Some jobs require their employees to be at work for more than eight hours. And a swing shift can start at midnight or a few hours after. Sometimes swing shifts can begin before or after lunch or dinner.

Every company has different kinds of swing shifts, but most usually follow these schedules:

  • Fixed or rotating 8-hour shifts, which could start in the morning or the afternoon. It can even be an overnight shift that begins in the evening and ends the next day’s morning.
  • Four 10-hour shifts that have, more often than not, three days off from work.
  • 12 hours of work for each shift with a possibility of having several days off from work

The Different Kinds Of Swing Shifts

In simple words: swing shift starts at different times of the day. It’s different from the traditional work hours. Most often, it overlaps with the regular 9 to 5 work hours of other employees. Companies have adopted this kind of shift to run their businesses more efficiently without a gap in staffing. Industries operating 24/7 are the most common ones with a swing shift. Below are the different kinds of swing shifts:

  • Morning shift – the working time of this shift could start as early as 12 midnight until 9 in the morning.
  • First shift – this shift adheres mainly to the regular business hours that start at 8 or 9 in the morning and end late afternoon.
  • Afternoon shift – the employees with this kind of shift would typically begin their work around 3 p.m. Their work would end in the wee hours around midnight.
  • Second shift – this kind of shift is similar to the afternoon shift and their hours at work usually overlap with the employees working in the morning and first shifts.
  • Night shift – it is also called the graveyard shift. So, when does the evening shift start? It usually begins around 6:00 p.m. and ends the following day.
  • Third shift –  this shift is almost similar to the night shift. If an employee is working during this shift, their hours would usually start at night and overlap with the afternoon and morning shift employees.
  • Fixed shift – this is probably the most desirable kind of swing shift because, as the name suggests, it has set hours of work and wouldn’t need much adjusting.
  • Split shift – this type of shift refers to a shift with long hours of a gap in between. Employees with this kind of work could start working in the morning for around four hours, have a long break, and resume work in the evening.
The Different Kinds Of Swing Shifts

Are you checking in late at night? Thankfully, hotel receptionists are available. Source:

Adjusting to these kinds of work schedules might take some time. To accommodate employees’ needs outside of work, they would usually receive their work schedules ahead of time to plan their lives around their assigned shifts. For some employees, their shift schedules change every month, and for some, they could change every week.

The Pros And Cons

shallow focus photography of people inside of passenger plane
For your late-night flights, swing shift workers got you covered! Source:

Of course, working and following a swing shift schedule is not for everyone. There is an exciting side to it and, just like most things, a not-so-interesting side. Let’s explore both.

Here are some of the disadvantages of having a swing shift at work.

  • You’re living a different life than most people. Imagine being on a night shift and going to work while everyone is either having dinner, having a Netflix and chill time, or sleeping, and you’re on the way to work. And when it’s your turn to go home, everyone else is on their way to work. Hanging out with your friends and family might be a little difficult to schedule, especially if they have regular working hours.
  • You’re going to find yourself sleepy at work. Since your body got used to a regular schedule that allows you to do activities in the day and sleep at night, it might take some time before it get used to this. You may even get used to using a lot of stimulants like coffee to keep yourself awake.
  • You might develop insomnia. Once your body gets used to your new schedule, going back to the usual way of going through your day, like sleeping at night on your days off work, might be challenging. It may even cause you to be irritable, which is an effect of sleep deprivation.

These disadvantages might discourage you from working a swing shift job. But, there is a bright side that we can look at, of course. Working during less conventional hours has some benefits too. These can include the following:

  • Get a better wage. Most swing shift workers are paid extra on top of their salary as compensation. This kind of incentive is called a night differential or hazard pay for night workers.
  • Save some more money. Since most of the people you go out with follow a different work schedule than yours, there are lesser temptations to go out and spend money (advisable for introverts).
  • Work with lesser supervision. If you’re the kind of person who performs better when you don’t have your supervisors around, it’s ideal because some work on regular hours.
  • Lighter workload because some swing shifts start when there are fewer customers. You will have more downtime to relax.

Are you looking to work only during the weekends? Check out our list of weekend jobs.

Jobs Require Swing Shift 

As mentioned above, some industries have adapted the swing shift to address their businesses’ needs. Here are some of them which most often have employees working with a swing shift:


Doctors and nurses work long hours in clinics and hospitals to ensure that their patients, especially those in emergencies, will be given the medical attention they need. Healthcare workers’ hours depend on the demand and can sometimes take more than 8 hours if some situations call for it.

Public safety 

Firefighters and police officers are the most common people working in this field. They usually work in several kinds of swing shifts to address the public’s need for safety.


Businesses in this industry are typically open beyond the regular hours, and some operate 24/7 requiring their employees to work with a split swing shift on most occasions. Some examples of these businesses are restaurants. 

Whether it’s a fast-food chain, café, casual dining, or fine dining, they would need to have their staff present all the time. They are the ones manning the cashier, preparing food, serving the meals, and cleaning tables at all times to address the flow of people coming to dine. Other examples of establishments in the hospitality industry include casinos and hotels.


Supermarkets, grocery stores, and convenience stores like Target are some of the best examples of establishments in the retail industry. What does a rotating schedule mean at Target? Work schedules in the retail industry change on a daily and weekly basis and depending on the demand. One day you could be working in the morning and the next in the afternoon. The schedules in the retail industry change a lot because stores depend on swing shift workers to make sure each shelf is full of products and meets the customers’ needs.

Customer Service 

Customer service employees’ workplaces vary depending on the kind of company they work for. Some work by taking and making calls or provide face-to-face assistance. No matter where they work, the end goal is to assist customers’ needs, and their employers need them to be available around the clock since some customers are in different locations and time zones.

Public Transportation 

In this industry, the most common employees who work with a swing shift are pilots, flight attendants, airport employees, and truck drivers. Since flights and other forms of transportations operate the entire day, employees receive schedules that distribute the workforce equally for each shift, even during odd hours.

Are you interested in jobs in odd hours available? Check out our list of well-paying graveyard jobs!

Advice For Swing Shifters

It’s not a secret that following a swing shift schedule at work can take its toll on your physical and mental health. But, there are things you can do to get accustomed to this kind of work hours:

  • Practice following the same swing shift schedule even when you’re not at work. By that, we mean that if you work at night, stay up, go about your life at night and sleep during the day. Please do this even on days you’re not at work because it can trick your body into getting used to your new schedule.
  • Rest and sleep more. On your days off work, you should try to relax and not deprive yourself of sleep. It’s okay to socialize, but your body needs some time to recharge and for your mind to reset. Get some power naps, too; they’re good at relaxing you and can help you get ready for a new work week.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Lesser establishments are operating during the week hours of swing shifters who may rely on eating unhealthy food during their lunchtime. 
  • Keep yourself awake. It’s very natural to feel sleepy and tired when working on less conventional hours of the day. But, it may cause you to fall asleep at work, especially during breaktime, and then you suddenly wake up from a short nap. And disrupted sleep is unhealthy and stressful. So, keep yourself awake and alert by doing activities like reading a book, crocheting, listening to music, and more.
  • Use your vacation leave credits. It’s a right of any employee to take some time off work. Don’t feel guilty about needing to rest and recharge your body.

WATCH VIDEO: Is It Better to Work Only Night Shifts, or Bounce Back and Forth?

Do you need more advice for your career? Check out our career advice.

To Swing Or Not To Swing?

Oscar Wilde once said, “The best way to appreciate your job is to imagine yourself without one.” If you’re someone who has been doing swing shifts for some time now and you start to feel burned out by it – which is quite natural – and feel like leaving your job, then that’s okay. But before you rush into making a decision, evaluate first the possible consequences if you do it. After all, self-care is the best care, but you might need income to care for yourself. 

For people who have never had a job with a swing shift, it could be an exciting experience with many benefits. You can see for yourself if it suits your lifestyle, especially if it’s your dream job. If it doesn’t work out, then that’s one for the books. You should always prioritize yourself and choose what’s best for you.

If you feel like working in the evening and on weekends, then check out our list of part-time on Jobandedu.


Leonard hails from the Philippines and works as a freelancer, author, poet, and visual artist. He discovered his passion for writing and painting at an early age, leading him to pursue a degree in Mass Communications. He worked at a few places after college before landing what he thought was a "life-changing" writing career. He was also the lead singer and songwriter for a band. His career as an English teacher, poet, and visual artist took him to Hanoi, Vietnam, in 2018. You can see more of his work on Instagram at @anumalei.