What Is Shift Work? Tips for managing shift work schedules Update 06/2024

As a general phrase for any shift-based job, shift work refers to any work schedule that falls beyond the hours of 7am to 6pm When it comes to shift employment, there are a variety of options, including night, early morning, and rotating hours. Approximately 16% of salaried workers in the United States work shifts, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The 6 percent who work evening hours and 4 percent who work night shifts are included in this figure.

Certain employees enjoy working at night and prefer a non-traditional schedule, but there are some disadvantages to working shifts. Working night, early morning, or rotating shifts increases the risk of shift work disorder and other sleep disorders.

Which Jobs Normally Include Shift Work?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes shift employment into three main groups:

Evening: This group includes shifts that go from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. every day. Following are a few examples of jobs that frequently require evening work:

  • Bartenders, waiters, and other people who work in the food service industry.
  • Other personal care workers, such as hairdressers and personal trainers.
  • Workers at retail stores, real estate brokers, cashiers, and other sales positions.
  • A wide range of professionals in the arts, sports, healthcare, and media industries.

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shifts between 11pm and 3am are referred to as “night shifts”. Night shifts are common in the following jobs:

  • Medical professionals such as doctors and nurses, as well as paramedics and other first responders
  • Assistants in healthcare, such as those in the fields of nursing, psychiatry, veterinary medicine, and others
  • Protective service personnel, such as firefighters, police officers, and security guards
  • Manufacturing and production workers, such as bakers, machinists, and others
  • Workers in the transportation and material moving industries, including truck drivers, air traffic controllers, and conveyor operators

An early morning shift covers the time period from 4 a.m. to 8 a.m. These are some examples of typical jobs that require these kinds of shifts:

  • Engineers and architects.
  • There are a wide variety of workers in the construction and extraction industries.
  • Farmers, fishermen, and foresters all fall under this category.
  • Mechanics for aircraft and industrial machinery, telecommunications equipment repairers, and other installation, maintenance, and repair experts.

Shift work, in general, refers to working outside of usual business hours, either permanently or intermittently. The word “shift work” is used in a variety of ways in the literature. If you’re looking for information on this topic, you need to be aware of this. Varied manuals and books have different meanings of shift work, so it’s easy to become lost. The amount of hours you work, the time of day you work, and the regularity with which you switch between different types of shifts all go into the definition of shift work. The definitions used by different companies and countries may also differ. Shift work is typically defined as working between 1800 and 0600 hours, whereas night shift work is typically characterized as working between 2100-0600 hours. In the eyes of the International Labor Organization (ILO), “night work” is defined as any work done between the hours of midnight and 5 a.m. Night Work Convention, no. 171, 1990 Salary definitions might vary from country to country because of discussions between the government and trade unions; this is why the definitions fluctuate. Shifts are also referred to as day, afternoon, and night in our language. Shift employment can also be divided into the following categories:

A. Permanent shift

For example, an employee may only work night shifts or only work during the day shifts. These kinds of shifts are sometimes referred to as “normal” shifts as well.

B. Rotating shifts

One and the same worker can work different shifts at the same time, for example, an afternoon shift one day, a night shift the next, and so forth. These shifts have been dubbed “irregular” by others. Changing shifts, on the other hand, can be governed by a system. In some hospitals, nurses might work rotating shifts such as day, afternoon, night and so on.

C. Continuous shift

From Monday through Sunday, people who work in shifts use this term. Shift work includes weekends, which means that the work doesn’t stop at the office. When discussing this type of job, the term “continuous” is frequently used. For example, if you work the night shift every night for a week and then switch to day shifts for the next week, and so on, you might describe your work schedule as “continuous” in this sense.

D. Discontinuous shift

Depending on the context, this could suggest that the employee works weekday or weekend shifts. The entire weekend is not included in the price.

E. Swing shift

The term “swing shift” refers to the practice of alternating between different types of shifts at the same time. It’s a common working arrangement for those who work on offshore platforms, building sites, or mines, where they may be stationed for several weeks at a time. It is possible to work night shifts for a few days and then switch to day shift before going home, or the other way around.

What Is a Rotating Shift?

Shift workers often have a set schedule that includes certain start and end hours and days of the week for each shift. On the other hand, shifts and days of the week can change from week to week with a rotating timetable.

Rotating shifts have different criteria depending on the company. The following are examples of common rotational schedules:

  • Work shifts are alternated seven days in a row in the continental United States. An eight-hour shift is considered a full workday. Employees are given two or three days off after every seven-day work period.
  • Panama: The 14-day Panama schedule, often known as the 2-2-3, is used by the Panamanian government. A 12-hour shift is worked two or three days in a row, followed by two or three days off. During the first and second weeks of the 14-day cycle, they will therefore work on different days.
  • Dupont: The Dupont system has a four-week rotation period. Day and night shifts are rotated around once or twice a month. A three- or four-day work week is followed by one to three days off. The worker has seven days off in a row at the end of the four-week plan.

Shifts that rotate every week or month can be more difficult for employees to manage than shifts that stay the same every week or month. However, the circadian rhythms that govern your sleep-wake cycle can be more easily modified when you shift from day to night to early morning shifts. Circadian rhythms can be disrupted by rotating backwards or in a random sequence.
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Rotating shifts might be difficult for some workers because they have to change their sleep-wake schedules every one to two weeks. The most challenging part about rotating every five to seven days is for many people to get used to it. To avoid disrupting your circadian rhythm, it is better to rotate more frequently (every two to three days or so) than rotate less frequently (every three days or so).

Pros and Cons of Shift Work

Shift work’s advantages include:

  • Work best in the wee hours of the morning for those who thrive in the darkness and those who flourish in the early morning for those who thrive in the light of day, respectively.
  • Commuting will be easier because you won’t have to deal with the snarls of morning and afternoon rush hour traffic.
  • An advantage over working day shifts: Shift workers in the United States aren’t legally compelled to be paid more, but some organizations reward their employees for working unconventional hours.

Shift employment has a number of drawbacks, among them:

  • People who work irregular shifts are more likely to suffer from shift work disorder, a sleep disturbance. Symptoms include sleeplessness when the person is trying to sleep and excessive tiredness when they are awake. As even if their symptoms don’t turn into a condition, many shift workers have difficulty going asleep or keeping awake during their shifts. Low levels of cortisol and testosterone, the stress hormones, can impair mood, energy, and libido in men.
  • Life changes: Working late into the night and waking up early might cause major disruptions in one’s personal and professional life.
  • Added dangers to the road conditions: Even if there is less traffic for shift employees to deal with, they are more likely to be involved in an accident due to drowsy driving. Between midnight and 6 a.m., or in the late afternoon, the bulk of these crashes are involving single drivers without passengers.

What industries use shift work?

Shift work is required by a number of companies. Among the most common industries to work shifts in are the following four:

  • Those in charge of keeping the peace.
  • Transportation
  • Military
  • Healthcare

Law enforcement

Shifts are a requirement for many law enforcement agencies, including the FBI and the DEA. For the most part, this is because staff are required to perform midnight shifts. Shift employment can be found in a variety of law enforcement positions, including:

1. Police officer

The average yearly wage in the United States is $51,301.

The primary functions of police officers include enforcing the law and protecting the public. Arresting suspects, patrolling the neighborhood, and reacting to emergency calls are among the duties of police officers. Police officers must be forceful, effective communicators, and able to work well with people of all ages.

2. Border patrol agent

$69,227 per year is the average annual pay in the United States.

Border patrol agents are tasked with keeping an eye on the border and apprehending anyone who crosses unlawfully or tries to carry illegal goods. It’s also their job to acquire information and make arrests when the situation calls for it.


Airline pilots and bus drivers are only two examples of those in the transportation business. Depending on your role, you may be required to work shifts as a transportation worker. Examples of such roles include:

1. Flight attendant

Wage: $16,92 per hour, on average, across the country

Flight attendants have the primary responsibility of ensuring the safety and well-being of airline passengers. It’s also their job to keep them safe and to enforce safety rules while they’re in the air. Flight attendants need to be alert and well-versed in the language of travel.

2. Truck driver

The national average weekly wage is $1,110.

The primary responsibilities of a truck driver include the long-distance transportation of products and cargo. In addition to loading and unloading goods, refueling the truck, and reporting any events on the road, drivers are also expected to report any problems or occurrences they encounter. To be a skilled truck driver, you need to be able to communicate clearly and physically lift heavy objects.


It’s well-known that shift work is required in tactical professions like the military. One reason for this, like in law enforcement, is that the military requires people to work midnight hours. Shift labor can be found in the following two occupations:

1. Infantryman

The national average annual wage is $38,125.

An infantryman’s primary role is to engage in combat during enemy attacks. They’re tasked with defending the nation, as do all military personnel. Soldiers in the infantry must be physically fit and able to deal with stress.

2. Cannon crewmember

The average yearly wage in the United States is $38,677.

Weapon systems and combat engagement are the primary responsibilities of Cannon crew members. As well as operating and setting fuses on various bombs, they also operate howitzer cannons. They must have a well-thought-out battle plan, be able to function as part of a group, and be physically strong.


Shift employment is required in the healthcare business because of the high number of patients who need to be cared for when they are in a hospital overnight or for an extended period of time. Shift employment can be found in a variety of healthcare occupations, including:

1. Registered nurse

Hourly wage: $33.87 on average across the country

The primary responsibilities of a registered nurse are the keeping of patient records, the supervision of patients, and the administration of prescribed drugs and treatments to those patients. They help medical professionals treat a wide range of patients. As a registered nurse, you’re expected to have excellent interpersonal skills, pay attention to your patients’ needs, and show empathy.

2. Physician

The average yearly wage in the United States is $201,054.

Physicians are accountable for the medical treatment of their patients, despite the fact that there are many different kinds of doctors. They do diagnostic tests, examine medical records, and come to a diagnosis and treatment plan for their patients. Patients may be asked to return for an additional examination at a later date if necessary. Doctors must be problem solvers, observant, and able to effectively communicate with their patients.

Shift work legislation

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

It is your responsibility to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of all your employees under the 1974 Health and Safety at Work etc Act.

To accomplish this, you must give sufficient resources.

  • training
  • instruction
  • information
  • supervision.
  • It also imposes obligations on employees to ensure their own and others’ safety in a reasonable manner. In order to fulfill their responsibilities, they must work together with their employer to ensure that they are doing so legally.

The management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999

Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations (1999) mandates that companies analyze and manage hazards to their employees and the general public that may arise from their work activities. It is the responsibility of every employee to follow their training and instructions in order to ensure that the workplace is safe.

The Working Time Regulations 1998 (as amended) (WTR)

Minimum legal standards for arranging working hours are laid down in the WTR (Working Time Regulations 1998, as modified).

Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977

Workers and their union representatives are required to be consulted by their employers on workplace health and safety matters, as outlined in the Safety Representatives and Safety Committee Regulations 1977 and the Health and Safety (Consultation with Employees) Regulations 1996.

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How many people work shifts?

Though the exact number of employees who work shifts is unknown, we do know it is a sizable one. Between 8 and 16 hours a day, just 25% of European Union workers have what we call a “normal” working day, meaning that 75% of the workforce works shifts. There is a dearth of information regarding night shifts outside of the European Union. 25.2 percent of Japan’s workforce works night shifts, according to reports. A substantially larger percentage of Korean night shift employees (44 percent) has been documented (2002). Night shift workers and other shift workers in emerging nations are still unknown. There are several industries where shift work is common, such as those in the smelting industry and hospitals, where work must be done at night since the process in the firm cannot be halted (e.g. a night watchman). Large cities’ night-open gas stations, cafeterias, and stores appear to be increasing the number of people working the night shift.

Tips for managing shift work schedules

In order to adjust to your new routine if you’re new to working shifts, you need keep a few things in mind. In order to effectively manage your work schedule, consider the following suggestions:

  • Consistently follow a set timetable. Maintaining a regular sleep schedule can have a positive impact on your physical and emotional well-being, as well.
  • Get into a regular sleep routine. Getting your body used to a regular bedtime or number of hours of sleep will help regulate it and improve your general health and productivity.
  • Avoid working in shifts that often change. It is preferable to switch from a day to night shift rather than vice versa if a rotating schedule is required.
  • Don’t overindulge in coffee near the end of the day. Having a cup of coffee at the end of your shift can make it more difficult for you to get to sleep at night.

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