Surviving the 2nd Shift: A Guide for Employees

Some companies operate work 24 hours a day. They assign employees shifts to make sure that business operations are running at all times of the day and night.

Companies that offer shift work usually belong to the following sectors:

  • Hospitality
  • Emergency and Health Care
  • Transportation
  • Food and Beverage
  • Law Enforcement and Security

Shifts usually overlap, allowing new workers to replace people from the previous shift seamlessly.

When hunting for jobs, you may find roles that require swing shift hours. This schedule is different from the usual 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. workday and isn’t ideal for everyone. Before you accept a job with a 2nd shift schedule, you need to understand how it works to know what’s expected of you.

What is the 2nd Shift?

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Working on 2nd shift hours means that you begin work in the late afternoon and leave the office in the late evening or in the wee hours of the morning. Employers will usually divide work into three different shifts, assigning different employees to each.

These shifts are:

  • Morning Shift (1st Shift): Typically 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Swing Shift (2nd Shift): Usually 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. or 4 p.m. to 12 midnight
  • Graveyard, Overnight or Evening Shift (3rd Shift): This shift covers 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. or 12 midnight to 8 a.m.

The hours for the 2nd shift will depend on the needs of the organization. Some businesses provide the choice of different swing swift hours or offer a bit of flexibility to accommodate your home life and other responsibilities.

Various Types of Swing Shift

Not all 2nd shift hours are the same.

Some businesses offer eight-hour shifts that are either rotating or fixed. This means that you’ll be on the 2nd shift on one day and then on a different type of shift on the following day.

Other companies offer four consecutive 10-hour swing shifts with three days off after completing four days of work. An example is working from Monday to Thursday, 5 p.m. to 3 a.m., with days off on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

There are also businesses that offer 12-hour swing shifts that come with several days off after each shift. You’ll find this job in hospitals, particularly nurses and other health care staff.

Another type of 2nd shift that’s less common is the split shift. Working on this type of shift means that you agree to get work done during two main blocks of time. A worker, for instance, may be required to work two different four-hour shifts for a particular day. The first block is from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. while the second block is from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Is Working 2nd Shift a Good Thing?

Some may be reluctant to say “yes” to a 2nd shift. The swing shift, for instance, may seem like a “no man zone” for working. Others believe that a non-traditional shift might burn them out or prevent them from doing the things they like.

You may, however, change your mind once you learn the benefits of working on a 2nd shift schedule. Here’s what you’ll enjoy when you work on swing shift hours:

An Opportunity to Get a Second Job

Working 2nd shift gives you the opportunity to work a first or third shift depending on the hours you’re assigned. If you’re looking to get a part-time or temp job to earn money on the side or further your career, the swing shift might be what you need. Just make sure that you leave time for physical and mental rest. The last thing you want to happen is to feel too strained when juggling multiple jobs.

Avoid the Morning Rush Hour

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Working in the 2nd shift means you’ll likely clock out at midnight or in the wee hours of the morning. This translates to zero morning rush hour headaches. You won’t have to stress over crowded buses, gridlocks and traffic jams.

Being Able to Sleep in

Having a swing shift schedule lets you sleep in each morning and not have to begin your workday until later in the afternoon. This is perfect for people who don’t consider themselves as a “morning person.”

How to Prepare for the 2nd Shift

If you’re not used to swing shift hours, don’t fret. You can take steps to help you adjust to your new shift quickly.

Take note of the following tips:

Get Used to Staying Up and Sleeping in

Adjust your normal sleep schedule several days before the official start of your 2nd shift. When doing this, make other adjustments like going to the gym in the early afternoon and doing dishes and other housework in the late morning. This will prepare your body and help you adjust to the swing shift hours.

Follow a Balanced Diet

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The food you eat can affect your energy levels. Before and during your 2nd shift, eat healthy and high-energy snacks to keep your energy up and metabolism going. Instead of reaching for donuts and soda, opt for healthier alternatives like fruit, black tea and almonds.

Never Rely on Caffeine

If you’re feeling sleepy in the middle of your swing shift, don’t automatically reach for that cup of joe. You’ll likely crash as soon as the caffeine wears off. If you need an energy boost, get up from your chair, do some light stretching and walk around to shake off the sluggishness.

If the 2nd shift is right for you, let the hiring manager know about your interest in this setup. Clearly articulate your shift preferences while highlighting how you working on the swing shift can benefit the organization.

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