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What Is a Swing Shift?

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Businesses that operate on a 24/7 cycle and experience a sudden surge of customers during peak hours need strong staff support. That’s where swing shifts can help.

This shift is quite different from the traditional 9 AM to 5 PM schedule in terms of resource utilization, shift timings, and the working paradigm. Swing shift helps business leaders operate their businesses round-the-clock without employing long-hour shifts and meet customers’ demands during the busy period of the day. By ensuring adequate staffing and unnecessary work time extensions, swing shift also helps reduce employee stress and burnout.

Want to understand how a swing shift works and what makes it useful for businesses with extended hours? Then read this blog to know everything about it, including how it’s different from rotational shifts.

What Is a Swing Shift?

A swing shift is a work shift that covers the hours between the day shift and the night shift. In other words, the swing shift workers fill in as a replacement for the day shift workers and work until the night shift workers start their shifts. It’s also sometimes called as the afternoon shift or the second shift.

Usually, the swing shift schedule workers cover the shift that starts in the late afternoon and extends till midnight or late at night.

The working hours can vary as per the business needs and industry type, but generally, they begin from late noon, e.g., 2 pm and extend beyond midnight. A typical example of this shift is from 4 pm to 12 am.

One of the major reasons behind companies opting for schedules with swing shifts is to

  • ensure 24-hr coverage to serve the clients/ customers whenever they need
  • ensure consistency of services even during peak hours or times of sudden surge of demand
  • Ensure coverage during the off-peak hours
  • enhanced productivity throughout the day and night

Majorly, healthcare, emergency services, transportation, retail, etc. use this shift to keep their business open for extended hours.

What Are Swing Shift Hours?

The typical hours in the swing shift are from 4 pm to 12 am, though it can start anywhere from 2 pm and can go till midnight or late at night. The shift comprises eight hours but can be longer or shorter depending on the shift pattern, industry type, and business needs. There are various shift patterns that use swing shift to operate, such as the continental shift pattern, the 4 on 3 off shift pattern, etc.

Different hour formats in a swing shift may include:

  • 2 pm to 10 pm
  • 3 pm to 11 pm
  • 4 pm to 12 pm
  • 5 pm to 1 am

Businesses operating around customer services mostly opt for the swing shift as it enables them to entertain more customer requests throughout the day without keeping long hours shifts. For example, if a food delivery business wants to operate round the clock and needs resources to be available all the time, it may split its workforce into multiple shifts to serve customers day in, day out.

Here’s how:

  • The morning shift can work from 8 am to 4 pm
  • The middle swing shift can cover the late afternoon slot, that is, from 4 pm to 12 am
  • The third shift workers can provide coverage from 12 am to 8 am

Here are examples of a few schedules utilizing swing shifts for 24-hr coverage:

Day Shift Swing Shift Night Shift
8 AM – 4 PM 4 PM – 12 AM 12 AM – 8 AM
6 AM – 2 PM 2 PM – 10 PM 10 PM – 6 AM
7 AM – 3 PM 3 PM – 11 PM 11 PM – 7 AM
9 AM – 5 PM 5 PM – 1 AM 1 AM – 9 AM

Apart from this, the swing shift also works as a supplement for businesses. For example, if a restaurant owner wants to keep their restaurant open from 8 am -12 am, then the owner can divide the resources so that one shift operates from 8 am – 4 pm and another shift works from 4 pm – 11 pm.

Now suppose the restaurant experiences a surge in customers between lunch and dinner times. In that case, the owner can consider adding a swing shift in the middle of these two shifts, in which a few additional resources will join in for stipulated hours (e.g., From 2 pm to 8 pm) to help serve more customers. In other words, there will always be resources on the ground to pick up the slack during peak hours.

Here is the demonstration of a continental shift pattern that leverages a swing shift of 3 PM to 11 PM for extended business operations. The pattern uses an 8-hour day shift, 8-hour swing shift, and 8-hour night shift to get 24-hour coverage. In this schedule, four teams work on different shifts, including day, night, and swing shifts on different days.

demonstration of swing shift in a continental shift pattern

In this example, employees rotate through different shifts throughout the cycle; however, employers can use other schedules that have fixed day shift, night shift, and swing shift workers.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Swing Shift

Advantages of Swing Shift

  • Reduced Commuting Time

The work hours of this shift are different from the regular work hours. For example, the swing shift workers usually commute during the late afternoon and midnight hours. Thus, they can skip the usual rush hour of traffic around 9 am and 6 pm.

Generally, employees with regular 9 to 5 shifts face the rush hours the most, but thanks to the odd work hours in the swing shift, workers can easily avoid peak traffic hours and reach home on time.

  • No Rush to Wake Up Early in the Morning

For people who prefer to sleep late in the night and wake up late in the morning, this shift aligns well with their routine. As the swing shift mostly starts after 2 pm, employees in this shift can
enjoy leisurely mornings and can easily complete their chores before leaving for the office.

woman having coffee near the window in morning

  • More Sleep Than Night Shift Workers

Swing shift workers get an adequate amount of sleep as compared to third shift workers. As per the circadian rhythm, the human body starts producing melatonin as it gets darker, which stimulates sleepiness. That’s the reason why night shift workers have a hard time sleeping during the daytime.

However, swing shift workers still have ample time to get sleep during the night when it’s still dark. Therefore, they can drift off to bed after their shift ends at midnight and have adequate sleep till the morning.

  • Opportunity to Earn Higher Incentives

It’s not mandatory for employers to provide extra wages to swing shift workers. Still, many organizations offer competitive wages and incentives to attract employees to work in such shifts. Generally, this lucrative pay is provided to employees as they work outside the regular work hours.

  • Suitable Time to Complete Errands and Personal Work

Swing shifts allow employees to complete their basic duties like daily chores, dropping off and picking up their children at school, etc., in the first half of the day. Unlike 9 to 5 job routines, employees don’t have to rush in the morning to reach their offices.

Besides, they can complete their pending and personal work during the morning, such as visiting a bank, seeing a doctor, and more, as such establishments are closed in the evening and on weekends.

  • Increased Operational Efficiency and Revenue

Employers implementing this shift can run their business for long hours to entertain more customers’ requests without stretching the shift timings. This way, they can keep their business open round the clock, allowing them to increase their revenue and profit.

What’s more, business owners can also consider introducing swing shifts during peak business hours to handle the extra workload.

Disadvantages of Swing Shift

  • Difficulty in Scheduling

Business owners and employers that operate their businesses day and night may find difficulty in scheduling shifts, especially if they have a large workforce. In addition, if there’s a request for shift cover at the last moment, finding another resource to pick up the slack will be hard.

  • Not Having Free Time Post Shift

Generally, employees need time to unwind after a hectic workday by pursuing a hobby, sipping coffee, spending time with family and friends, or playing with pets. But employees working this shift are not left with any spare time after their work. Instead, they get free time in the morning, and thus they have to rearrange their schedule accordingly.

  • Not Able to Spend Time With Friends and Family

In the swing shift, employees get leisure time only during the daytime and not in the evening. This change in the work timings can impact employees’ social life. For example, if employees gather and socialize during dinner time, then the same won’t be possible with this shift.
In addition, most people work in general shifts, 9 to 5, and even children’s school hours are in the daytime; thus, employees working this shift may not be able to spend adequate time with their friends and family on a daily basis. In fact, employees with young children may struggle to find childcare for these odd hours.

  • Adjusting Routine with this Shift

The shift is good for people who are habitual of sleeping late, but if someone is a morning person, they may have difficulty adjusting to this shift. Plus, the time of this shift is different from regular ones. Thus, workers will have to adjust their meal times, sleep times, etc., according to the schedule, which may impact their body clock and eventually the health of some people.

  • Impact on Productivity and Creativity

Though this shift benefits employees with more leisure time and flexibility, employees who feel most productive in the morning may find this shift unsuitable. Although every person has their own productivity hours, it has been observed that the productivity and creativity of most people are at their peak during the morning.

As the day progresses, employees tend to slack off their work and feel less productive. Thus, employees with creative jobs may face challenges working with this shift.

  • Difficulty in Getting Approval for Time Offs

Swing shift workers may face difficulty in getting time off from their managers. In order to give approval for the time off, the manager must have someone to delegate those tasks to. Since all employees work in their respective shifts throughout the day, finding someone to cover the shift at the last minute is difficult.

Swing Shift vs. Rotating Shift

In the case of the swing shift, there are workers for night and day shifts, and along with that, there are workers who cover the hours between the day and night shifts or provide extra coverage during the peak hours of the day.

However, there aren’t any fixed shifts for employees in the rotating shifts. In fact, in rotating schedules such as in 2-2-3 work schedule, employees continuously cycle through the day and night shifts in a 14 or 28-day rotational period and get equal opportunity to work day or night shifts.

In addition, the working hours in rotating shifts maybe 8 to 12 hours long for day and night shifts, but in swing shifts, the workers usually cover the hours in between two work shifts (around 8 hours) or simply work as additional resources during the peak hour of the day. That is, rotating shifts with typical day and night shifts may have 12 hours of shifts; however, other schedules that use swing shifts have 8 hours of shifts only.

Who Uses Swing Shift?

It’s usually used in industries that either require the 24-hour business operation or need additional coverage during peak hours. Here are the industries where swing shifts are popularly used:


Hotels and restaurants use swing shifts as they can serve their customers round the clock and have additional coverage during the peak hours of the day. Especially diners who open their hotels early in the morning or keep their hotels open for the nightlong benefit the most from this shift introduction.

Health Care and Public Safety

Working in the healthcare industry is very taxing as nurses and doctors have to look after their patients day and night. With the help of the swing shift, caretakers and medical professionals will not have to do long-hour shifts. Simply put, medical professionals that work till late at night or early morning can get ample rest, thus reducing the chances of burnout and fatigue.

Just like the health care sector, firehouses, police stations and other such emergency services also need to provide services day in and day out. This way, they can also make use of swing shifts to better manage their customers and workforce.


The retailers need to stock their shelves with goods or products during the odd hours, usually at nighttime, so they are ready to sell them during general business hours. Thus, they need resources during the off-peak hours to help them stock the goods or products.

As a solution, retailers can leverage the swing shift schedule through which they can stock their shelves at odd hours and even accommodate walk-in customers easily during the store’s busy hours.

Customer Services

Customer service employees take calls from customers who need additional information or have queries regarding a product/service. That’s why they require resources to be available on a 24/7 basis to help customers with their queries or needs. For them, the swing shift is helpful in providing customer services round-the-clock without the need to have long-hour shifts.

Customer care employee resolving customer’s query


Truck drivers, logistic companies, shipyards and other transportation services leverage swing shifts to transport logistics and goods from one location to another, as they mostly transport when the roads are not very busy. In fact, pilots, flight attendants, and air traffic controllers also avail of the swing shift to help people commute from one place to another day and night.

How to Introduce a Swing Shift in Your Organization

If you want to run your business 24/7 with short hours shifts or need to cater to more customers’ requests during peak hours, then you can consider introducing a schedule with a swing shift.
However, before introducing this shift in your organization-

  • Make sure that your employees are ready to work in this new shift schedule.
  • Tell them the benefits of working on this schedule and how this new schedule will operate.
  • Take individual opinions and analyze what the majority has to say.

Once you’ve decided to implement this schedule, consider:

  • providing employment support so that your employees can easily adjust to this new shift
  • providing them with an option to swap their shifts with the day shift workers at certain intervals
  • implementing an open-door policy so that employees facing issues with this shift can get vocal about it with their managers

Apart from this, you can face challenges with schedule creation and management for employees, if you have a large workforce

As a solution, you can leverage our Workforce Management Solutions, which helps in advanced scheduling and resource allocation for a large workforce as per the shift requirements. It can create shift structures within seconds based on roles, location, and skills. Moreover, it notifies about the shift overlap and helps resolve the conflict by replacing old shifts with new ones.

Tips to Adjust to the Swing Shift

Here are some ways employees can make some lifestyle changes to make it easier for them to adapt to the swing shift in order to maintain high productivity levels and good health.

Block Your Time for the Day in Advance

Make a list of errands, chores, or duties you have to accomplish as the day begins. Whether it’s completing home chores, dropping children to school, visiting a bank, going to the gym, etc and block the time chunks with these activities as a part of your to-do list. This way, you’ll be able to complete all these duties before your shift begins.

You can even use a time-blocking application to organize your routine productively. Completing these tasks will give you a feeling of accomplishment, and you’ll feel more productive and energetic for the rest of your day.

time blocking for a day on the paper

Make a Sleep Schedule

One of the biggest challenges with the swing shift is that it can impact the sleep cycle of employees. To deal with this issue, create a sleep schedule to ensure that you’re taking adequate hours of slumber on a daily basis. Develop a habit of going off to bed as soon as you reach home from work so that you can recharge well throughout the night.

You can also practice calming activities before bed that can help you fall asleep soon, such as sleeping in dim light, not using the phone much, abstaining from caffeinated drinks, doing a breathing activity, journaling, or reading a book.

Pay Attention to Your Eating Habits

Watch your eating habits when working this shift schedule, as these can impact sleep quality and overall wellness. Before sleeping, avoid having meals that are high in sugar, saturated fat or processed carbohydrates, as these disrupt the sleep cycle. Instead, consume food rich in fiber and unsaturated fats that help in sound sleep.

Plus, prepare food before the start of your shift and bring that meal for your break time. It’s easy to feel the temptation to buy snacks when working during odd hours, which can negatively affect your health. You can take nuts, granola, and oatmeal with you to beat the mid-meal hunger pangs and to help you feel fuller. So, organize your eating habits and routine and choose the diet that ensures your long-term wellness.

woman enjoying her meal

Take a Power Nap Before Your Shift Starts

As you start running errands or completing daily chores in the morning, chances are that you may start feeling tired as the first half of the day passes. That’s why it’s good practice to take a power nap before you leave for your office. This will help you rejuvenate your energy and will restore productivity for the rest of your day.

Stay Connected With Your Friends and Family

When you work an odd shift, and your family members work the regular shift, it’s likely that you’ll hardly get a chance to spend time with your family on a daily basis. Swing shift employees should plan to meet their friends and spend time with family during the weekend. They can also request their managers to swap their shifts with other shift workers for a certain period. Employers should encourage employees to spend more time with their families and use paid time off whenever they need it.

woman playing with her child in the garden

Keep Your Business Open 24/7 by Leveraging Swing Shift

Some businesses must keep their businesses open for long hours for maximum profitability. Plus, they may also need additional assistance during the peak hours of the day. This is where swing shifts can help them reach their true potential. This schedule helps employers accommodate more customer requests, maximize productivity and stay competitive.

On the other hand, this schedule offers employees a better work-life balance and an opportunity to earn higher incentives. So, employers and business leaders can go for this shift scheduling, if they need round-the-clock services or require additional help during peak hours. However, make sure to provide any kind of support to employees to help them adapt to this transition. Also, using a robust time tracking software that helps set shifts and schedules easily for the employees helps in a big way.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q.1 What is a swing shift schedule?

The swing shift is a middle shift between the typical day and night shifts. Its hours start around 3 pm and end at midnight.

Q.2 What is a swing shift in a restaurant?

In a restaurant, a swing shift schedule operates so that some employees may work odd hours, specifically at the busy time of the day, to ensure proper staffing all the time. For instance, if a restaurant has its business open from 7 am to 11 pm, it can engage two shifts. The swing shift can be from 2 pm to 10 pm between lunch and dinner when the restaurant experiences a customer surge.

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Sonika Malviya


Sonika Malviya


Sonika is a Marketing Communications Specialist at Deltek | Replicon, specializing in covering topics related to time tracking and workforce management software. With her in-depth knowledge of these topics, she translates technical details into understandable and relatable content to empower businesses to optimize their productivity, improve their workflows, and achieve greater success in managing their time. Beyond her professional role, Sonika finds solace and inspiration in her travels. She also practices meditation and has a flair for culinary experimentation, always eager to try her hand at cooking new cuisines.


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