Work Time Management··15 min read

What is a Swing Shift and How Does it Work?

What's a Swing Shift? How to create a Rotating Shift Roster

If your business is open sixteen hours or more, there's a good chance you've heard of the term “swing shift”. In a lot of standard first and second shift businesses, the managers schedule their employees to work one shift, and they stick with that for the length of their employment.

While this scheduling strategy keeps things clean and simple, it doesn't always make the most sense economically and performance-wise.

In this guide, we'll help you understand swing and rotating shifts and also help you implement them successfully in your business.

What is a swing shift?

First, we need to understand what a swing shift is. As we said, the traditional schedule typically runs 7 am-3 pm and then 3 pm-11 pm with slight variations based on the business.

While this might make sense for manufacturing, warehouse, or office jobs, what about businesses that can't always anticipate their peak hours? Some of these businesses include restaurants, hotels, and call centers that can't just predict an influx of customers in the late afternoon.

These types of businesses often utilize swing shifts to make up for meal times and peak business hours.

For example, if a business is open from 7 am until 11 pm, they may have two employees scheduled for 7-3 and two are scheduled for 3-11.

A swing shift employee may come in and work 10-6 or 11-7 based on the necessity. As a business owner or manager, you can determine when your peak hours are to decide when you want those swing shift employees to work.

In a restaurant, the peak hours might be around dinner time. During these rush hours, you would want to have more employees scheduled with them being off around 8 pm when the sales start to slow down again and off-peak hours begin.

The main thing to remember about the swing shift is that it overlaps the schedule of other employees and doesn't always remain the same.

One week, the manager may want the swing shift employees to work 10-6, and the next week they might work 12-8 based on the needs of the business.

What types of industries use swing shift hours?

people in restaurant

Many businesses use swing shift schedules to make up for lapses in resources. Some examples are:

  • Restaurant
  • Lodging
  • Bars
  • Nursing
  • Emergency Services
  • Grocery Stores
  • Call Centers
  • Retail

As you can see, a lot of these businesses mentioned above don't operate on a typical schedule. For example, a grocery store may receive a shipment of products on Tuesday, which requires individual employees to leave their regular job of stocking shelves to unload the truck.

The manager may need to add a swing shift employee this day to make up for the change in workflow.

In nursing and most health care, it is not uncommon for professionals to work rotating 12-hour shifts. These shifts might run from 7 am-7 pm and visa versa to provide care for patients even with irregular schedules.

In between, there may be a swing shift that splits the difference to allow nurses to have a meal and take a break during their long-hour shifts.

Advantages of the swing shift

For the business owner, there are many advantages to using a swing shift schedule. First, you're able to make up for lapses in workforce with eight-hour swing shifts. If someone needs to take a break or leave early, you'll have an extra person to make up the difference and handle customer requests.

Swing shifts are also great to add support for company operations during busy periods. In fast food service, managers may add a swing shift that runs through the busy lunch period because that is their peak time of day and they need additional coverage. They may also add another one to run through the dinner period because of the sales volume, as well.

Having the right amount of staff is not only essential to serving your customers, but it also helps with employee morale. Ensuring that your team has the right amount of support makes their job easier and makes your business a better place to work, despite long-hour shifts and around the clock services.

From an employee standpoint, there are advantages as well. Employees who work swing shifts usually have more time in the morning and evening to accomplish personal tasks. For people who work a traditional 8-4 or 9-5, it's challenging to make appointments and get things done during the day because you work normal working hours. you also get to spend less time in traffic and avoid rush hour traffic jams.

For someone working 11-7 or 12-8, they have the freedom to schedule appointments and run errands in the morning before they come into work. They also get home and still have time to see friends and family before the world goes to sleep. Their shift managers can tell them the exact hours they are needed to keep the company operations going.

Disadvantages of the swing shift

The main issue with swing shifts for company leaders and shift managers is managing the scheduling of employees while maintaining continuous operations and meeting company requirements. It's challenging to manage all of these varying shifts when you have people coming and going at all hours of the day.

You may also face the challenge of trying to schedule around peak hours, which is hard to anticipate in a lot of businesses. In the same way, your employees will struggle with their personal commitments and social activities with irregular schedules they have.

There are also health care concerns as some employees won't be able to maintain a steady sleep schedule, all while maintaining their social life.

What is a rotating shift schedule?

Many people confuse a rotating shift with a swing shift; they're entirely different. When someone works a rotating schedule, it means they cycle between shifts.

For example, this is a popular scheduling strategy in healthcare. Nurse group A might work the day shift for two weeks, and nurse group B works the night shift. After those two weeks, they switch, and group A works the night shift, and group B works the day shift.

Simple, right?

Rotating shifts are widespread in occupations that vary significantly from shift to shift. For example, police officers may prefer to work the day shift because it is less stressful and dangerous than working an evening shift.

If one group of police officers is forced to work the night shift all the time, they might feel like they're getting the short end of the stick. Of course, this might vary based on seniority and other factors as well.

The same is true for restaurants. Servers in restaurants may make more when they work the dinner shift because the checks are larger, and there are more customers. If a group of servers are always forced to work the lunch shift, they might become discouraged because they aren't making as much money as the night shift workers who have a higher customer demand.

Managers offer rotating shifts as a way of keeping everything fair while still offering around-the-clock coverage.

Advantages of a rotating work schedule

There are many advantages to a rotating shift strategy besides maintaining work during off-peak hours. Here are some of the most significant ones.

Equal opportunity

As we said, rotating employees allows everyone the chance to work during peak hours. If employees work for commission, this will increase their morale and allow them the opportunity to get additional compensation.

Customer service

If you've ever had a job in fast food or anywhere in the hospitality industry, this point might ring a bell for you. During the day shift, you have all of your best employees and managers scheduled because that is the most desirable shift. Day shift workers have it easier in general.

Next thing you know, the bottom falls out at night because all of the underperforming employees come in and the good ones leave. Standards go out the window, customer satisfaction is gone, and money is lost, endangering the overall customer experience and business operations.

Keeping employees on rotating shifts allows your best employees to be available at all hours, so proper training and standards are met, no matter what time of day it is.


Having your new employees trained by your best is what every manager or owner wants, right? If you limit an employee to one shift, you're only exposing them to a certain way of doing things. As we mentioned in the previous point, that could mean the new employee isn't getting trained according to your standards.

Having a rotating shift schedule allows you to touch base with all employees and ensure they're receiving the training and support they need. For example, you'll want to help your customer support team as they may be struggling to meet customer requests and maintain customer retention.

Disadvantages of a rotating work schedule

The primary and apparent downside to a rotating work schedule is the lack of consistency. Many employees may not want to work a rotating schedule because it complicates their lives if they don't always work at the same time.

It's essential to have a set plan for how you'll manage your rotating shifts. Employees should have a heads-up as to what shift they're working in the future so they can plan their lives around their jobs. In other words, they should know their schedules in advance to adjust their social life to any non-traditional hours.

Another downside is the physical aspect. If a team member gets up at 5 a.m. for two weeks so they can make it to work at 7 a.m., their body may get used to that. Now they have to change their schedule and work until 11 p.m. for two weeks, which can mess with their circadian rhythm and sleep patterns.

Some people adjust to this easily, while others never adjust to the changes in their daily life and their leisure time.

How to create a rotating shift schedule

The basic rotating shift schedule would contain a group of teams labeled A, B, and C, but it's not always going to be that simple. Depending on your type of business, you might need a way to schedule your team members and ensure you always have the right amount of staff planned at the right time

There's a strategy called a “2-2 3-2 2-3” rotating shift; don't worry, it's not as complicated as it sounds. The shift schedule would run something like this:

  • Two on, two off
  • Three on, two off
  • Two on, three off

There are variations of this, and you'll have to find out what makes the most sense for your business and the kind of customer experience you want to create. When you split the days and nights on and off like this, it creates gaps in between the changing schedules, so your employees always have an opportunity to get enough rest and take care of personal business during the daytime hours.

Does that sound like too much work?

We understand if that sounds like a lot of work with plenty of room for error (because it is). If you're switching to a rotating schedule, it's easy to make mistakes that can leave you understaffed during peak hours or overstaffed during slow periods in an evening shift.

That's why we created Unrubble. This premium online staff scheduling app allows you to create a shift roster with employee schedules in minutes instead of hours. You can reduce your scheduling problems with our schedule maker and assign jobs and positions quickly and efficiently. Business leaders love Unrubble because they can keep their employees happy and increase customer satisfaction at the same time.

Planning a rotating schedule is chaotic, and there are plenty of places where things can slip through the cracks. Next thing you know, you're dealing with frustrated customers or employees because you don't have enough staff when you need it most for your business operations. prevents this by keeping everything in one place so you can ensure you always have the right amount of help at all times.

If time management is important to you, helps automate your scheduling as well. Our schedule maker wizard helps business leaders auto-generate schedules with the click of a button. It takes previous schedules you've created based on your sales volume and helps you generate the ideal roster based on your projections for your business operations.

You'll also save time with the easy-to-use drag-and-drop system of You no longer have to input every employee's information into Excel manually. You can copy and move employee shifts using the interactive interface.

This feature allows you to spend more time on your business and less time in the office worrying about scheduling. Flex shifts, swing shifts, additional hours - we take care of it all.

In a growing digital world, it's crucial for you and your employees to have access to information no matter where you are. has a mobile schedule so your employees can check their work hours directly from their phone so they can plan around their work hours.

All this data is stored safely on our servers, and you can download and import information for your records as well.

Finally, how many times have you had employees change and swap schedules without you knowing it? keeps track of this as well. You'll receive notifications of all schedule changes so you can keep a close eye on your staffing, so you're never short-staffed.

Swing shifts are an essential part of many industries that require continuous operations and continuous production. These shifts typically cover evening hours and bridge the gap between day and night shifts. Here’s a comprehensive look at swing shifts and their impact on employees and operations.

Understanding Swing Shifts:

  • Definition: A swing shift usually starts in the late afternoon and ends late at night. It differs from fixed shifts and can vary based on the industry’s needs.
  • Swing Shift Schedule: A swing shift schedule often rotates employees between day and night shifts, providing flexibility but also requiring careful management.

Benefits of Swing Shifts:

  • Continuous Operations: Industries that require continuous production benefit significantly from swing shifts, ensuring that work is carried out around the clock.
  • Work-Life Balance: For some employees, working swing shifts can offer a better work-life balance by freeing up daytime hours for personal activities.

Challenges of Swing Shifts:

  • Sleep Patterns: Swing shifts can disrupt sleep patterns, leading to difficulties in maintaining a regular sleep schedule.
  • Mental Well-Being: The irregular hours associated with swing shifts can impact mental well-being, causing stress and fatigue if not managed properly.

Creating Effective Swing Shift Schedules:

  • Shift Schedules: Developing effective swing shift schedules involves balancing the needs of the business with the well-being of the employees. Rotating shifts and ensuring fair distribution of day and night shifts can help.
  • Swing Shift Schedule Planning: Use a swing shift schedule planner to organize shifts efficiently, ensuring that employees have adequate rest between shifts.

Tips for Employees Working Swing Shifts:

  1. Adjust Sleep Patterns: Try to establish a consistent sleep routine that aligns with your shift hours to mitigate the effects on your mental well-being.
  2. Healthy Habits: Maintain a healthy diet and exercise regularly to help your body adjust to the irregular hours.
  3. Manage Stress: Use relaxation techniques and ensure you have downtime to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Industry Applications:

  • Continuous Production: Many manufacturing and production industries rely on swing shifts to maintain continuous operations, ensuring efficiency and meeting demand.
  • Service Industries: Hospitals, emergency services, and other 24/7 operations use swing shift schedules to provide continuous care and service.

By understanding the dynamics of swing shifts and implementing supportive policies, businesses can enhance productivity while safeguarding the health and well-being of their employees. Properly managed swing shifts can lead to successful continuous operations and a balanced work environment.

Final thoughts

By now, you should have an answer to the question, “what's a swing shift?” You should also know how to implement a rotating schedule and swing shift strategy in your business. If you think these unique scheduling methods can work for you, be sure to check out and learn more about how we can help.


What are swing shift hours, and how do they differ from traditional business hours?

Swing shift hours typically fall between the end of the day shift and the beginning of the night shift, often from 4 PM to midnight. Unlike more traditional business hours, which usually occur from 9 AM to 5 PM, swing shifts work during the evening and early night. This schedule can be appealing to those who prefer working outside regular business hours or need to accommodate other responsibilities during the day.

How do rotating shifts work, and what are the benefits and challenges for shift workers?

Rotating shifts involve employees alternating between different shifts, such as morning shift, afternoon shift, and night shift, on a regular basis. This shift pattern can provide variety and flexibility but may also disrupt the sleep schedule and work-life balance for shift workers, especially those working evening hours. Rotating shift scheduling requires careful planning and communication to ensure that employees are prepared for the changes in their work hours.

What are the typical responsibilities of swing shift workers, and how do swing shift schedules work?

Swing shift workers often handle tasks that need to be continued after the first shift ends and before the night shift begins. This may include production, customer service, or other operational needs during peak hours.

Swing shift schedules usually consist of eight-hour shifts or ten-hour shifts, and employees may work several swing shifts in a row or rotate between different shifts. The specific schedule can vary based on the company's needs and the types of swing shifts offered.

How can I manage my sleep schedule while working swing shift hours?

Managing sleep while working swing shift hours can be challenging due to the odd hours. It's essential to create a consistent sleep routine, even on days off, and to create a sleep-friendly environment.

Avoiding caffeine and electronic devices before bedtime and seeking support from family and friends to maintain a healthy sleep schedule can help swing shift employees adapt to the unique demands of their shift work.

What are the considerations for truck drivers working two shifts or more, including swing shifts?

Truck drivers working two shifts, including swing shifts, must consider factors such as legal regulations, safety, and fatigue. Adhering to regulations regarding maximum-hour shifts and rest periods is crucial.

Proper scheduling, including breaks during peak hours and allowing time for rest between shifts, helps ensure that drivers remain alert and safe on the road while doing an evening shift. While many truck drivers are night owls by nature, these are common concerns you and your employees should be familiar with.

How do fixed shift and split shift schedules differ from rotating shift schedules?

Fixed shift schedules assign employees to a specific shift, such as day, swing, or night, for an extended period or indefinitely. Split shift schedules divide the workday into two shifts with a break in between. In contrast, rotating shift schedules have employees alternate between different shifts, such as first shift, second shift, and third shift, on a regular basis.

Each approach has its advantages and challenges, depending on the needs of the company leaders and the preferences of the shift workers.

What are the common challenges faced by night shift workers, and how can they be addressed?

Night shift workers often face challenges related to sleep disruption, social isolation, and health concerns. Maintaining a consistent sleep routine, even on days off, and creating a dark, quiet sleep environment can help. Employers can also support night shift workers by providing proper lighting, scheduling regular breaks, and offering resources to help employees adjust to working during the night, e.g. customer service employees.

How can employers create effective shift schedules to accommodate different shifts, including different types of swing shifts?

Creating effective shift schedules involves understanding the needs of the business and the customer demand, including peak hours, and the preferences and availability of employees. Clear communication, flexibility, and consideration of factors such as early morning or late-night demands can help create a schedule that works for both the company and the employees. Utilizing scheduling software and seeking input from day shift workers, swing shift workers, and night shift workers can lead to a more balanced and productive work environment even outside of regular work hours.

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