The Job Seeker’s Guide to Shift Work

Job postings usually have a section listing the shift the employee would work. If you’re unfamiliar with shift work, you might not know what that shift is. If you’ve done shift work before, this could be your signal that this job is (or isn’t) for you.

Shift work is a style of scheduling groups of employees so that different workers are performing the same tasks throughout the day. Workplaces using shift work often have employees working 24 hours a day and for the entire week.

Workplaces that use shift work often provide essential services. Police departments, fire departments, and hospitals all require staff 24/7 to keep their communities safe and healthy. Sometimes employers use shift work to increase productivity. Factories may have workers on duty most if not all hours of the day for increased output.

Common shift schedules

While every workplace is different, there are three common shift schedules:

• First shift: Traditional business hours make up the first shift. First shift workers typically start work between 8 a.m. and 10 a.m. They end the day between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

• Second shift: Second shift employees relieve first shift workers. They start their day around 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and leave at midnight or 1 a.m. Second shift is also called the swing shift.

• Third shift: The overnight shift requires employees to clock in around 10 p.m. to midnight and clock out between 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. This is called the graveyard shift because it’s when things are (usually) much quieter.

There are variations on this three-shift schedule. With a fixed shift, one crew is always working the same shift. One crew works the first eight-hour shift, another crew works second shift and a third works graveyards.

On rotating shifts, employees change shifts often, usually weekly. A crew might work the day shift for one week, second shift for another week and then go back to days.

Benefits of shift work

Nontraditional work hours offer flexibility. They can do things they may not be able to with a 9-5 job, like picking kids up from school or running errands when it’s less crowded.

Unconventional hours also mean that commutes are much smoother. You get more time back in your day if you aren’t battling rush hour, which may allow you to take a job a bit further from your home.

Drawbacks of shift work

The drawbacks of shift work are mostly related to the night shift. Shift work can have a negative effect on your physical and mental health. Long-term night-shift work can lead to increased risk of heart disease, obesity, and certain cancers. Having an unpredictable sleep schedule can lead to mental health issues. Night shift workers are also at greater risk for accidents.

Shift work can also interfere with your social life if your friends and family aren’t on the same schedule. You may have to miss out on activities because you’ll be at work or sleeping.

Employers sometimes offer incentives for employees to take second and third shifts, such as higher wages. You may also be more likely to get a job if you’re flexible about which shift you’re willing to work.

No matter which shifts you want to work, Award Staffing can help. Explore our job opportunities to find your future.