Shift work involves scheduling employees to perform their job duties during all 24 hours of the day and usually the entire week. It is used when a lapse in work would be detrimental for the employer and those who use their services, for example, a hospital, utility, or police department, or when it is more efficient for the entity to continuously operate, as in the case of a busy factory.
Types of Shift Work Schedules
There are different types of shift work schedules. Employers may assign workers to a first shift, second shift, or third shift. They may schedule employees to work regularly during that shift, called a fixed shift, or to work rotating shifts.
First Shift: This is what we often refer to as traditional hours. Individuals who have the first shift usually work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but may alternatively be on the job from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Second Shift: Relieving first shift workers are second shift workers who often start at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. and clock out at midnight or 1 a.m.
Third Shift: The third shift is commonly referred to as the graveyard or overnight shift. Employees arrive for work between 10 p.m. and midnight and leave between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.
Fixed Shifts: Employees are assigned to a fixed shift work the same hours every day.
Rotating Shifts: Instead of having the same shift every day, workers on rotating shifts work different hours depending on the day. For example, one may work first shift three days a week and second shift two days.
The length of shifts may also vary and with that the number of days one works and has off each week. For instance, some workers have four 10-hour shifts and three days off each week. Others work three 12-hour shifts with four days off.