What Is a Work Shift? (Plus Industries That Use Them)

The song might say working 9 to 5, but business owners know that the reality can be very different—in many industries, coverage is required around the clock. The solution is shift work: employees working at different times throughout the day (and night).

Seem obvious, right? It can be, but if you’re new to HR the terms used to describe common shifts can be confusing. And when it comes to scheduling shift work, keeping everyone happy can be challenging even for seasoned experts.

Here’s a refresher on common types of work shift and some key tips on how to improve shift work scheduling.

Kenny Chesney – Shiftwork (Duet with George Strait)

Types of work shifts

These are some common work shifts your employer may schedule you to work, as well as the benefits and disadvantages of each:

First shift

First shift, or the day shift, typically begins as early as six in the morning and can end as late as four in the afternoon. This is the shift that a majority of employees are working, including those who do not do shift work. This includes bank tellers, office people and all other employees who might also work second, third or rotating shifts.

Second shift

The second shift is also known as the swing shift, and it typically begins as early as two in the afternoon and can go as late as midnight. This shift occurs during the afternoons, once most office employees and other day shift staff have gone home. People working second shift may be in industries like restaurant work, healthcare and emergency response.

Third shift

The third shift, or the graveyard shift, can begin as late as ten in the evening and end as early as eight in the morning. Third shift is common when constant staffing is necessary, like in nursing homes. A company or organization may also schedule employees to work the third shift if they need work continued overnight, like with retail stores or transportation services. For example, a grocery store employee might sanitize surfaces overnight, or a bus driver may drive routes. Some businesses also choose to remain open at night to get more customers, like bars, gas stations and convenience stores.

Rotating shifts

When a person is working rotating shifts, they alternating between working any combination of first, second and third. This can be difficult for many as it makes developing a regular sleeping pattern tricky. Many employers choose to assign their staff to rotating shifts because then the entire employee pool can share night shifts, which are usually the least desired.

What is a work shift

A work shift is a set amount of time, typically eight hours, that an employer schedules and expects an employee to work. Many industries operate using shift work to maintain staff at all times. It is likely that most people may experience a work shift schedule while working, especially early in their careers.

Benefits of work shifts

These are some benefits of work shifts:

Industries that use work shifts when scheduling employees

These are some industries that may use work shifts when scheduling their employees:


What is your work shift?

Common Types of Work Shift
  • First Shift. The hours for a first shift, sometimes known as the day shift, are usually pretty close to what you’d expect for the “traditional” working day, starting in the morning and ending in late afternoon. …
  • Second Shift. …
  • Third Shift. …
  • Split Shift.

What are work shifts called?

Best Shift Worker Apps For Android And iPhone
  • Work Shift Calendar. What is this? …
  • Shift Work Calendar. …
  • Shift Work Schedule. …
  • Shift Work Days. …
  • Supershift. …
  • My Shift Planner. …
  • MyDuty – Nurse Calendar. …
  • My Shift Work.

How long is a work shift?

Increased risks

A person working night shift, which causes disruption to the circadian rhythm, is at greater risk of various disorders, accidents and misfortunes, including: Increased likelihood of obesity. Increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Higher risk of mood changes.

Is work shift one word or two?

The term shift work refers to any work schedule that falls outside the hours of 7 am and 6 pm1. Shift work can include evening, night, and early morning shifts, as well as fixed or rotating schedules.

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