Successfully Swinging Your Team into Second Shift

Successfully Swinging Your Team into Second Shift

How swing shifts have evolved into idea working options
Second Shift

The Industrial Revolution, spanning from the late 18th century to the early 19th century, was a period of booming economic, technological, and social transformation. This era witnessed a dramatic shift in labor demands as employers attempted to keep pace with the generation’s growing demand. 

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, economic production largely occurred within the home or in close proximity to it, and both men and women contributed to household and economic activities. This era led to the establishment of factories and plants, separating the workplace from the home for the first time. 

As the demand for labor soared, this created a need for more workers. For many working-class families, the economic necessity of dual incomes forced both the men and women of the household into the workforce. Thus, the Industrial Revolution ushered in an opportunity for women, who began to take on paid employment outside of their homes, often working long hours under challenging conditions. 

However, because women were still largely responsible for all domestic responsibilities, i.e., child care, homemaking, etc., they would largely return from work and bear the burden of their home responsibilities. In an effort to accommodate their strenuous schedules, many employers etched out a mid-day shift for women that would allow them to accomplish all of their tasks — inside and outside of their homes. This afternoon shift became known as the swing (or second) shift. 

The Definition of a Swing Shift

Today, many businesses operate 24/7, offering services or goods that must be provided at all times. Accordingly, to cover 24 hours in a day, employers began staffing three eight-hour shifts. The swing shift was created to fill the space between the day shift, which typically covers eight hours around 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and the night shift, which runs from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Swing shifts are designed to provide overlapping coverage on both the first and third shifts, ensuring a smooth transition and unblemished service. This work pattern often serves as a junction between the day and night shifts, ensuring companies have full coverage during the ever-important late afternoon and evening hours.

Tip: Use scheduling software to optimize swing shifts. Scheduling software allows you to adjust shifts based on real-time needs, ensuring smooth transitions and consistent service during crucial hours.

Historical Origins of Swing Shifts

As established in this article’s introduction, the concept of swing shifts is not new. First introduced in the Industrial Revolution, swing shifts have stood the test of time, existing through several eras, including:

World Wars (20th Century) — Following the Industrial Revolution, World Wars I and II expedited the need for continuous production of the materials and supplies necessary during war. This furthered the demands of shift work. Factories operated 24/7 to support these war efforts, making swing shifts a common practice. The shift concept was essential to ensure industries could meet heightened labor demands without interruption and that workers were not overworked. 

Post-War Era and Modernization (Mid-20th Century Onwards) — After the wars, shift work continued to grow, especially in industries that operate around the clock, such as manufacturing, health care, transportation, and public safety. Technological advancements and the expansion of service industries also contributed to the necessity of swing shifts to provide continuous service and support.

Modern Workforce and Globalization (Late 20th Century to Present) — In the modern era, globalization and the rise of the service economy further expanded the prevalence of shift work. Businesses, such as call centers, retail stores, and IT services, often operate across different time zones, requiring a workforce that can cover various shifts, including swing shifts. The swing shift has become an integral part of the workforce structure, adapting to the needs of different industries and a globalized economy to ensure operational efficiency.

Types of Swing Shift Schedules

Swing shifts come in many forms. The specific schedule chosen often depends on the nature of the work, operational needs, and employee or employer preferences. Here are some examples of the many variations of swing shifts. 

8-Hour Shifts

Monday to Friday – 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

8-Hour Shifts with Rotating Days

Week 1: Monday to Friday – 4 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Week 2: Monday to Friday – 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.

10-Hour Shifts

Four days on, three days off – shift starts at 3 p.m. and ends at 1 a.m.

12-Hour Shifts

Some industries may utilize a 2-2-3 schedule, aka the Panama schedule. This schedule typically involves employees working rotating 12-hour shifts over a two-week cycle. 

Week 1: Monday, Tuesday – 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Wednesday, Thursday – Off

Friday, Saturday, Sunday – 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Week 2: Monday, Tuesday – Off

Wednesday, Thursday – 12 p.m. to 12 a.m.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday – Off

12-Hour Shifts with Alternating Weeks

Week 1: Monday to Wednesday – 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Thursday – Off

Friday to Sunday – 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Week 2: Monday to Wednesday – Off

Thursday to Sunday – 4 p.m. to 4 a.m.

6 Days On, 1 Day Off

Sunday to Friday – 2 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Saturday – Off

Common Careers Using Swing Shifts

Swing shifts are commonly utilized in various industries that require extended hours of operation or 24/7 coverage. 

According to Redline, only 16% of U.S. wage and salary workers have non-standard schedules outside of a traditional 9-to-5 pattern. Additionally, younger workers were more likely to work non-daytime shifts, as 31.9% of 15-24-year-olds worked non-daytime hours versus 15.3% of 55-64-year-olds. Finally, 

Here are some common careers where swing shifts are prevalent.

Health Care 

Professionals in the health care sector, such as nurses, medical technicians, and emergency room staff, often work swing shifts to provide continuous patient care. Those working in labs or imaging departments often have to work beyond regular business hours as well. To ensure all patients and tasks are taken care of, these facilities are often staffed 24/7.


Factory workers, machine operators, or quality control inspectors may have to work various shifts on assembly lines to maintain production schedules, oversee and operate machinery, and ensure product standards are met at all times. 

Customer Service

Call center agents and support representatives are tasked with ensuring customers are taken care of at all times, including late afternoons and evenings. If and when a customer has a problem, someone needs to be available to solve it. According to Redline, 27% of personal care and service workers worked evenings.


Stock clerks, sales associates, and security may be called upon to restock shelves, address customers, and ensure the location is secure during all hours. This extends beyond working the counter as inventory needs to be stocked, shelved, and churned, if necessary. Approximately 41% of food preparation and serving workers occupied the evening shift from 6-10 p.m.

Public Safety

Police officers, firefighters, and emergency dispatchers must be ready and available whenever an emergency arises, thus they are not immune from working the second shift. Crime and emergencies have no boundaries, so first responders need to be ready and available 24/7. 

Pros and Cons of Swing Shifts

Swing shifts are convenient options for some employees and employers but not so much for others. Here are some pros and cons of swing shifts:


Higher Pay: Many businesses offer shift differentials, rewarding employees working swing shifts with higher wages than those working regular day or night shifts.

Reduced Commute Times: Traveling to and from work outside of peak hours often results in less traffic and shorter commutes.

Personal Flexibility: Working in the afternoon frees up the morning and night for personal tasks, appointments, or family time.

After Hours: Some people are naturally more alert and productive in the evening, making swing shifts more suitable for their personalities.

Less Crowding: Swing shifts limit the number of employees in the workplace, allowing the day shift to exit in advance of the night shift’s arrival. This leads to a a less crowded and potentially more relaxed/productive work environment.


Booked Solid: Working during the evening can create social conflicts, keeping workers away from family dinners, youth sporting events, or any other gathering scheduled in the evening hours.

Sleep Deprivation: Irregular sleep patterns and working during natural rest periods can lead to sleep disorders, fatigue, and other health issues. Shift workers had a 22% higher risk of depression and a 16% higher risk of anxiety compared to non-shift workers.

Missed Appointments: Many services and businesses are closed during the evening, making it difficult for swing shift workers to access health care, banks, and other essential services.

Social Limitations: Working hours that differ from many others can lead to feelings of isolation from friends, family, and coworkers.

Book a Babysitter: Finding child care during unconventional hours can be more difficult and potentially more expensive. Preschool children were more likely to be cared for by their father if their mother worked night or evening shifts, compared to mothers who worked day shifts (42% vs 23% respectively).

Getting Up to Speed: Employees may need time to adjust to swing shift schedules, which can initially lead to decreased productivity and morale.

Less Managerial Oversight: Swing shifts may have fewer managers and supervisors present, which can impact decision-making and support.

Implementing Swing Shifts into Your Business

So, you’ve decided you want to add a second shift to your business. This requires careful planning and consideration to ensure the new approach meets your company’s operational needs. Here are a few steps to help you effectively implement a swing shift:

Assess Business Needs — Identify the demand to determine why a swing shift is needed. Assess periods of increased demand, operational bottlenecks, or specific tasks that require extended hours. Evaluate the workload distribution to ensure the swing shift will efficiently cover the necessary tasks.

Develop the Proper Schedule — Typically, a swing shift occurs between the day and night shift, often running from late afternoon to midnight. Define exact start and end times based on business needs and decide whether shifts will be eight, 10, or 12 hours long. Ensure compliance with local labor laws regarding maximum working hours and required breaks.

Consult with Employees — Inform employees about the reasons for introducing a swing shift and how it will benefit the business and them. Involve workers in the planning process to gather feedback and address any concerns they may have about the new schedule. Consider offering incentives for employees working swing shifts, such as shift differentials, bonuses, or additional support services (e.g., transportation, meals), to help gain buy-in. 

Ensure Legal Compliance — Review local, state, and federal labor laws to ensure your preferred swing shift complies with regulations regarding working hours, overtime, breaks, and rest periods. Ensure the shift structure adheres to health and safety standards, particularly regarding fatigue management.

Develop Shift Rotation and Coverage — Decide whether shifts will rotate or remain fixed. Rotating shifts can distribute workload evenly but may affect employee well-being. Ensure all shifts are adequately staffed. Consider cross-training employees to handle multiple roles if necessary.

Implement, Monitor, and Evaluate Your New Schedule — Consider running a pilot program to test the new shift system. This allows you to identify and resolve any issues before a full rollout. Provide training to ensure employees are familiar with new procedures, especially if the swing shift involves different tasks or responsibilities. Continuously monitor the effectiveness of the swing shift. Gather feedback from employees and supervisors, and track productivity and operational efficiency. Be prepared to make adjustments based on feedback and performance data. Flexibility is key to finding the optimal shift structure. Conduct regular reviews of the swing shift’s impact on productivity, employee satisfaction, and overall business performance. Continually assess the impact of the shift on employees' health and well-being, making any necessary adjustments to support their work-life balance.

How OnTheClock Can Simplify Your Shifts

OnTheClock is a cloud-based employee time tracking system designed to optimize your workforce and, ultimately, make your operations more efficient. OnTheClock can simplify shift management in several ways, making it easier for businesses to schedule, track, and manage employee shifts efficiently. Here are 10 ways OnTheClock’s employee time tracking tools can help you master swing shifts.  

  1. Intuitive Scheduling Interface — OnTheClock provides a user-friendly interface that allows managers to easily create and modify shift schedules. The drag-and-drop functionality simplifies the process of assigning shifts to employees, ensuring quick and error-free scheduling.
  2. Automated Shift Notifications — OnTheClock can automatically send shift notifications to employees via email or text messaging. This ensures employees are always informed of their upcoming shifts, reducing the likelihood of missed shifts or miscommunications.
  3. Real-Time Shift Changes — Managers can make real-time changes to the schedule, and employees are instantly notified of any updates. This flexibility is crucial for handling last-minute adjustments or unexpected absences.
  4. Shift Swapping — OnTheClock allows employees to request shift swaps with their colleagues. Managers can approve or deny these requests through the platform, streamlining the process and ensuring proper shift coverage.
  5. Integration with Time Tracking — The integration of scheduling with time tracking ensures employees' work hours are accurately recorded. This helps in monitoring attendance, calculating payroll, and ensuring compliance with labor laws.
  6. Overtime Management — OnTheClock helps manage and track overtime by providing clear visibility into employees' work hours. Managers can set alerts for when employees are approaching overtime, helping to control labor costs and comply with regulations.
  7. Mobile Access — The mobile app allows both managers and employees to access schedules on the go. Managers can make adjustments from anywhere, and employees can check their schedules, request time off, or swap shifts using their smartphones.
  8. Reporting — OnTheClock helps ensure compliance with labor laws by keeping detailed records of shift schedules, work hours, and employee attendance. The platform also generates reports that can be used for audits and regulatory compliance.
  9. 24/7 Accessibility — Employees can access their schedules, request time off, and manage their availability through the platform. This reduces the administrative burden on managers and empowers employees to take control of their schedules.


Swing shifts have a rich historical background dating back to the Industrial Revolution, evolving significantly through various eras to meet the demands of a 24/7 economy. Today, they are incredibly important in numerous industries, ensuring the continuous operations necessary to meet global business needs. While swing shifts offer benefits like higher pay and reduced commute times, they also pose challenges, such as potential sleep deprivation and social isolation.

Implementing swing shifts requires careful planning and consideration of both the business's needs and employee's well-being. By following structured steps, businesses can effectively integrate swing shifts into their operations, ensuring both productivity and compliance with labor laws.

Swing shifts are etched into stone within American labor patterns and appear to be part of the workforce for centuries to come. Tools like OnTheClock simplify the complexities of managing swing shifts. With features such as intuitive scheduling interfaces, automated shift notifications, and mobile access, OnTheClock enhances efficiency and flexibility in workforce management. This not only benefits businesses by optimizing operations but also empowers employees with better control over their schedules, fostering a more balanced and productive work environment. 

Trial OnTheClock free for 30 days to discover the virtues of time tracking and how it can transform your productivity. For more information, visit

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