A swing shift is a shift that falls outside the typical 9-to-5 schedule, usually somewhere between the standard day and night shifts. In this guide, we’ll go over what swing shifts are and how they can benefit your business and your employees.
Table of contents
Most companies have a 9-to-5 work schedule. But it doesn’t always work for employees or the business as a whole. Sometimes, a 9 to 5 means businesses are missing out on reaching certain markets, such as late-night customers, or failing to meet employee demands for job flexibility.
Some businesses use fixed night shifts to get around these issues—but they aren’t perfect either. Businesses may need extra support to cover busy hours during the workday. Or, they may need extra hands on deck in the early morning or late evening but not the whole night.
Swing shifts can help with these issues. In this guide, we talk more about what swing shifts are, why they’re important, and the benefits and challenges of implementing them in your organization.
- A swing shift is any shift that falls between the normal 9-to-5 working hours or night shift hours.
- Swing shift schedules are particularly useful for the healthcare, transportation, retail, hospitality, and public safety industries.
- Swing shifts can result in higher productivity, increased employee morale, and more.
- However, there are some drawbacks to swing shifts—including an increased risk of employee fatigue.
- Before implementing a swing shift, you’ll need to ensure your employees are on board with the plan. You should also look for ways to ensure flexibility with the new shifts.
- Connecteam can help you create and schedule swing shifts at your business.
Understanding What a Swing Shift Is
Swing shifts are shifts that fall outside the traditional day and night shift hours. They’re used to ensure round-the-clock coverage at a business. Since every business is different, the exact hours of a swing shift can vary.
Although it’s not always the case, they’re commonly used to help cover peak hours, often called “rushes,” when there’s a greater demand on the business.
Additionally, businesses can use swing shifts to provide employees with more flexibility, increase productivity, and reach new target markets.
Because of this, swing shifts are more common for businesses that are open 24 hours or provide services outside of standard working hours. But these aren’t the only businesses that can use them. Just about any company can use swing shifts if they’d like.
Employers typically offer additional pay for employees who work swing shifts. This is to compensate for working non-standard hours.
To make it easier to understand how swing shift schedules work, let’s look at an example.
Suppose a coffee shop is open from 5 am until 7 pm. Let’s say the usual shifts are from 5 am to 12 pm (the morning shift), 9 am to 5 pm (the day shift), and from 12 pm to 7 pm (the night shift).
However, around midday, the coffee shop gets extra busy. To help ensure coverage, the manager might implement a swing shift and have a couple of extra staff members come in from 12 pm to 5 pm. This shift falls between the normal working hours but ensures there’s extra coverage when it’s needed.
Swing shifts vs. rotating shifts
It can be easy to conflate rotating shifts with swing shifts. However, they’re 2 different concepts.
Rotating shifts are shifts that change or rotate to maintain coverage. In our coffee shop example from above, a rotating shift schedule might see an employee work the morning shift for 3 days, the night shift for 3 days, and then have 3 days off. They would then repeat that schedule over and over again.
On the other hand, swing shifts don’t necessarily rotate. They’re simply shifts that fall between the usual morning and night shift hours.
Another big difference between these 2 shifts is their goal. Rotating shifts look to provide employees with variety and ensure work equality by more evenly distributing work hours and schedules among employees. This ensures coverage of different shifts over a set period of time. Meanwhile, swing shifts are designed to provide extra coverage during non-standard hours.
How Do Swing Shifts Work?
Swing shifts can work in various ways, depending on a business’s operations and industry.
Think of it this way: With swing shifts, employees “swing by” your workplace to provide extra coverage, especially during peak hours. Because peak hours can differ for each business, putting an exact time period on a swing shift is tough.
Additionally, since swing shifts cover peak hours, they tend to last longer than typical shifts, which don’t often exceed 8 hours. Usually, they’ll look something like this:
- 8-hour shifts: These could be either fixed shifts that are consistently scheduled at the same time or rotating shifts that change every few days or weeks.
- 10-hour shifts: Employees are scheduled to work 10-hour shifts for half the week and then have the other half off.
- 12-hour shifts: Employees work 12-hour shifts, with 1 or 2 days off between each shift.
These are just a couple of methods of using swing shifts. You can get creative and devise ways to schedule employees for shifts that fall outside these patterns.
📚 This Might Interest You:
We break down the 15 types of work schedules every manager should know.
Common Industries that Implement Swing Shifts
Swing shifts aren’t for every business. For instance, most office-based companies and corporate businesses don’t need to add a swing shift because they don’t need to be open for extended hours.
On the other hand, there are plenty of industries that do need swing shifts in order to keep production moving, prevent customer wait times, and ensure smooth operations. A couple of these include:
- Healthcare. Hospitals often use swing shifts to ensure staff members get breaks and that there’s no interruption to patient care, which is often required around the clock.
- Hospitality. Hotels, casinos, and other hospitality organizations use swing shifts to avoid wait times and provide services such as late-night check-in.
- Public safety and emergency services. Swing shift hours are used to ensure coverage for emergency situations, such as fires or robberies.
- Retail: Supermarkets and other retail stores benefit from swing shifts to help avoid running out of stock between workdays.
- Convenience. Gas stations and service centers often operate 24/7 to provide service to early-morning and late-night drivers.
- Transportation. Pilots, drivers, captains, and other transportation professionals work swing shifts to provide red-eye services.
- Communications. Call centers often operate swing shifts to help cover periods of high call volumes, such as during the evenings.
- Military and security. Private security and military personnel often work swing shifts to provide support during emergencies, holidays, and weekends outside of typical business hours.
📚 This Might Interest You:
We explain how to easily and effectively schedule retail staff in 2024.
Typical Swing Shift Hours
When setting swing shift hours, you’ll want to implement shifts that make sense for your business. That means creating swing shifts that cover rush hours at work.
Businesses can use any hours they like for a swing shift, but a couple of typical swing shifts include:
- First shift: A shift that starts or ends slightly before the average workday but otherwise falls within regular working hours.
- Example: 8 am to 3 pm
- Afternoon shift: A shift that starts after midday and typically lasts until late at night but before midnight. This shift is sometimes called a “second shift.”
- Example: 2 pm to 10 pm
- Third shift: This is a night shift that starts late in the evening and usually ends early in the morning. It can start or end slightly earlier than your typical night shift.
- Example: 9 pm to 2 am
- Split shift: A shift that’s broken into 2 segments, often to cover 2 different rushes.
- Example: 4 am to 8 am and 3 pm to 7 pm
You might also want to read about Broken Shift Allowance
Adding one of these swing shifts can help ensure employees are around to help when things get extra busy at your business. Or, you can have swing shifts that don’t fall into these categories. The key is to figure out what makes sense for your business and set shifts accordingly.
Examples of Swing Shift Schedules
Let’s check out a few examples of a swing shift schedule.
At a coffee shop
For a coffee shop, peak hours tend to be from about 8 am to 11 am and from 3 pm to 6 pm. Despite this, many shops open as early as 5 am and close as late as 10 pm.
A manager might add a split swing shift to have an employee come in from 8 am to 11 am and then again from 3 pm to 6 pm. This shift helps ensure there are extra hands to help make drinks and take orders during the shop’s rush period.
Nurses often work 12-hour swing shifts, running from 6 am to 6 pm or from 6 pm to midnight. These shifts help provide emergency support for patients outside of normal business hours.
To help make up for the longer shifts nurses work, hospitals will often schedule nurses with several days on and several days off.
At a grocery store
Another place that may use swing shifts is a grocery store. Let’s say the store is open from 8 am to 6 pm. A manager might have someone work a swing shift from 3 pm to 8 pm.
Even though this shift falls partly outside regular working hours, it enables the employee to help stock shelves for the next day. This helps support business operations and prevents morning shift employees from having to do extra work.
Benefits of Swing Shifts
Swing shifts can benefit both you and your employees. Let’s break it down.
How employers benefit from swing shifts
Employers implement these shifts for several reasons, although the primary reason is to improve coverage during peak hours. As an employer, there are many other benefits you can experience, including:
Better productivity and higher profits
With more people working during peak hours, your team can be more productive and get more done. And the more that gets done, the higher your revenue and profits can be.
Larger customer pool
You can use swing shifts to help extend your regular working hours, having your business open earlier or close later. This can open up new opportunities for customers to come in and make purchases.
For example, adding a swing shift in the morning could expand a coffee shop’s hours so it can target early-morning commuters rather than just people on their mid-morning coffee or lunch break. This gives the business access to a new market, increasing revenue potential.
Improved client satisfaction
Swing shifts help prevent labor shortages. This helps keep operations running smoothly, avoiding delays and ensuring client satisfaction.
For example, in the food service industry, extra coverage during peak hours results in shorter wait times for food, which keeps customers happy.
Reduced staff costs
Implementing swing shifts doesn’t just help increase business revenue. It can also help reduce labor costs—even though many employers provide higher pay to swing shift employees. This is because these shifts ensure better coverage and reduce the need to pay employees overtime.
Boosted employee morale
These shifts give employees extra support and assistance, particularly during peak times. When you implement these shifts, it sends a message to your employees that you value and care for them. This can then boost employee morale, improve employee engagement, and increase workers’ loyalty to your business.
📚 This Might Interest You:
Discover the most important employee engagement goals and how to achieve them at your business.
How employees benefit from swing shifts
As we’ve mentioned, swing shifts often come with extra compensation to incentivize employees to work them.
Additionally, in some places, such as Colombia and Australia, employers are actually required to pay workers more for shifts after 6 pm. This means they take home a slightly bigger paycheck for working odd hours.
Swing shifts often fall outside of rush hour—from around 6 am to 9 am and then 4 pm to 6 pm, when commuters are heading to and from work.
Because swing shifts typically land right in the middle of the typical workday, employees don’t have to worry as much about getting caught up in traffic. Instead, they usually head to work before rush hour begins and leave long after it ends.
Some employees like swing shifts because they offer more flexibility. Because the shifts are outside the typical 9 to 5, employees have the flexibility to take care of personal commitments that can be tricky to schedule when working a normal day shift.
Additionally, employees usually get days off after working a swing shift, especially if it’s a 10- or 12-hour shift. That extra time off can come in handy for running errands in between shifts.
The Challenges of Using Swing Shifts
Although swing shifts can be beneficial, they can also provide some unique challenges.
Let’s go over a few of the most common challenges you might face.
Fatigue and burnout
While it’s not always the case, employers sometimes use swing shifts to schedule employees for long periods. For example, in the medical industry, it’s not uncommon for swing shifts to last 10 or 12 hours at a time—sometimes even 24 hours.
This can lead to employee fatigue and burnout. When employees are tired and overwhelmed, they aren’t performing at their best and can start to make mistakes. In industries such as the medical industry, this puts patients at risk and can impact business revenue.
Even in industries that use shorter swing shifts to cover rushes, burnout can still be a problem. Because these shifts are during peak hours, they require a lot of energy from employees and can be more demanding than a regular shift.
🧠 Did You Know?
Some employees are participating in a recent trend known as “Bare Minimum Mondays” to combat burnout and fatigue. Learn more about the trend in our guide to Bare Minimum Mondays.
Some people may be happy to volunteer for swing shifts, but others may be less willing to pick them up. This could be because the hours are inconvenient, giving employees less time with family members who work a traditional 9 to 5. Or it could be because the shifts require more effort from the employee.
As a result, you may face pushback when trying to implement these shifts, leading to difficulties in getting the coverage you need.
Additionally, swing shifts can cause scheduling conflicts for those with commitments that usually fall outside working hours. That can make it challenging for you to get employees on the schedule.
Difficulty giving additional time off
Another challenge that swing shifts pose is that they may make it difficult for you to offer employees extra paid time off (PTO). Because swing shifts are during peak hours, they’re often extremely important shifts. The swing shift stops serving its function if employees aren’t available to work.
You may find it hard to give those who work swing shifts additional days off outside of their regularly scheduled PTO. This can lead to lowered job satisfaction, a poor work-life balance, and even increased turnover.
How to Implement a Swing Shift Schedule
It can be hard to introduce swing shifts to your business if you haven’t used them before. However, if you’re up to the challenge, you’ll need to follow these steps:
- Educate your employees. The first step to successfully implementing a swing shift is to educate your employees on swing shifts. You’ll want to set aside a meeting or training day—or create a digital training session or training materials—to explain swing shifts and why they matter.
- Get employee buy-in. Next, you’ll need to get employees on board with the idea. You can do this by offering incentives, such as additional pay or days off after each swing shift.
- Create a new schedule. Then, it’s time to create the schedule. You can do this with scheduling software like Connecteam that ensures there are no overlaps, double shifts, or other potential issues.
- Provide employee support. Once the new schedule is underway, make sure you’re there to provide employee support. Ensure employees know how to contact you if they have questions or concerns. You might even consider being present during the first few swing shifts. This helps employees adjust to the shifts and ease into their new routines.
- Get feedback. Finally, you’ll need to get feedback from employees about the shift to understand what worked and what didn’t. Send out a survey and ask for employees’ honest thoughts and opinions. From here, you can adjust shifts and coverage to better meet business needs.
Simplify the process with Connecteam
When creating a swing shift and putting it into practice, Connecteam can help you every step of the way.
To educate your team about swing shifts, you can create custom training materials, bite-sized videos, or complete courses using Connecteam’s training software for employees. Monitor their training progress via the central admin dashboard, and send reminders for them to complete training.
You can also use the employee rewards and benefits features to incentivize employees to buy into the new swing shift schedule. Send them digital tokens they can cash in for gift cards, or offer them additional PTO.
Then, when it’s time to create and publish your schedule, Connecteam has you covered. There are powerful scheduling tools that enable you to create schedules you can easily share with your team.
Either design your own schedule from scratch, import existing schedules and duplicate shifts, or use one of Connecteam’s templates to save time. The drag-and-drop functionality is easy to use, and you can create a complete schedule in minutes. Plus, employees can easily request to swap shifts if they need to.
The software will automatically flag scheduling conflicts and issues before you can publish the schedule. This way, you can make adjustments and ensure you’re always properly staffed.
Additionally, Connecteam will send automated notifications to employees letting them know when a new schedule is live. It also lets you notify your team when their shifts are starting to help prevent no-shows.
Lastly, you can also take advantage of Connecteam’s survey tool. You can easily gather feedback from your employees on any topic—including how they feel about swing shifts and any changes they’d like to see. Create custom surveys with various question types or use a handy template. You’re even able to make surveys completely anonymous.
There’s a digital poll feature as well that’s great for gathering instant feedback from employees.
With your survey and poll results, you adjust your swing shift schedule as needed to ensure you’re improving business outcomes and keeping everyone happy.
A swing shift is one of the most effective ways for businesses running 24/7 or operating on non-traditional 9 to 5 schedules to be more efficient and productive. It consists of a schedule outside the standard day and night shifts—thus providing better coverage, especially during peak business hours.
Swing shift schedules are ideal for healthcare, public health and safety, retail, customer service, and hospitality businesses.
Even though there are challenges when adopting this kind of schedule, there are also benefits, such as increased customer satisfaction and improved employee morale.
Connecteam is the perfect platform to help you implement swing shifts effectively. Train your employees on the new schedule, create it in minutes, stay in touch with your team about any schedule updates, and gather their feedback so you can improve the schedule in the future.
Why is it called a swing shift?
These shifts are called swing shifts because they’re neither a morning nor a night shift. Instead, they “swing” between these 2 shifts.
Are swing shifts healthy?
Swing shifts can be healthier than early-morning or late-night shifts because they don’t upset individuals’ circadian rhythms as much. However, they can also be mentally draining because they allow for less social and family time. The result is that swing shifts can be healthy or unhealthy depending on each individual’s situation.