In facilities which operate 24 hours a day, requiring several shifts of workers to ensure that all the hours are covered, the swing shift is a shift which starts in the afternoon and runs into the evening. It may be known as the second shift or evening shift, depending on when it occurs and regional preferences. Working on the swing shift can be grueling, especially for parents, as it requires a somewhat unusual sleep schedule.
Classically, the swing shift runs from 4:00 in the afternoon until midnight. Variations may run from 2:00 PM to 10:00 PM, 6:00 PM to 2:00 AM, and so forth. Swing shift workers often come in as the second shift in the day, replacing workers who started in the morning, and they will be replaced by a third shift which covers the late night and early morning. This third shift is known as the night shift or graveyard shift.
People who work on the swing shift usually need to sleep later than other people in the community, because their work ends late in the evening. They may have difficulty coordinating things like social events, medical appointments, and so forth, because the rest of society usually operates on a nine to five schedule, assuming that people are at work between nine in the morning and five in the afternoon. Swing shift workers can experience especially large problems with things like childcare.
However, being on the second shift can also be advantageous. College students, for example, may appreciate this schedule because it allows them to take courses in the morning and early afternoon, and go to work in the evenings. Other people feel more alert and active in the late afternoon, preferring to be at work during these hours since they function more effectively.
Shift work can be used for things like keeping a factory in 24 hour production, which tends to be more efficient, and providing customer service at all hours. For international companies, the ability to have people on the phones every hour of the day is critical, as customers may need assistance or services at any time, day or night.
There are a number of variations on the swing shift, with various companies having different shift schedules for their workers. Generally, the more senior a worker is, the more he or she will be able to dictate the terms of a work schedule, while less senior workers usually find themselves on graveyard and swing shifts, rather than the usually coveted first shift.