Shift Work


The term shift work refers to the practice of deploying staff during different timeframes throughout the day or week.  Companies that use shift work may place employees on regular schedules that run over the weekends as well as the overnight hours.


At the extreme, companies operate twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.  They do this to optimize the use of production equipment, to provide service to their customers, or for reasons of security.  To ensure there is adequate coverage, companies will place employees on various shifts.  The three most common types of shift work include:

  • First Shift (Day Shift): this schedule will start between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. and continue for eight hours.  According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 80% of all employees work this shift.
  • Second Shift (Swing Shift):  this schedule will start around 4:00 a.m. and continue until around midnight.
  • Third Shift (Night Shift): also referred to as the graveyard shift, this schedule will start around midnight and continue until around 8:00 a.m.  

In order to provide coverage seven days a week, some employees will be asked to work weekends.  For example, an employee might be assigned to the day shift and work Tuesdays through Saturday.  While some employers will pay workers a premium when they are assigned to the second and third shifts as well as weekends, they are not required to do so under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Note:  Working the second and third shifts can disrupt an individual's circadian rhythms, which are the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that occur on a twenty-four hour cycle.  Shift work is also thought to place a strain on personal relationships.

Related Terms

benefits, flexplace, flextime, mandatory employee benefits, paid breaks, mandatory employee benefits