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Blog Insight & Commentary

Working the Swing Shift: What It Means & What It Pays

So, am I gonna make more money?

Abbey Slattery

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What is a swing shift?

There’s the morning shift, there’s the night shift, and then there’s the swing shift. Sometimes called the afternoon or second shift, this type of schedule is most common in businesses that are either: a) open 24 hours or b) are busiest late at night. 

The exact hours of a swing shift can vary widely and largely depend on your field. Typically, the afternoon shift hours stretch from 3 p.m. to midnight, give or take a few hours on either side. 

A few industries that have a swing shift include:

  • Health care, like urgent care facilities and hospitals

  • Retail, like big-box and grocery stores

  • Customer service, call centers and live chats

  • Hospitality, like hotels and hotel restaurants/bars

  • Transportation, like cab drivers and bus drivers

  • Food service, like fast food and restaurants

There are advantages and disadvantages to working the second shift of the day, but it may take some adjusting before you’re fully used to the flow—and in the end, it may not work for everyone. 

The pros of working a swing shift

  • Employees are may be paid more or offered perks for working the swing shift 

  • Non-traditional hours means you won’t have to deal with as much traffic during your daily life (shopping for groceries, working out, literal traffic)

  • No waking up early for morning shifts

  • Your mornings and early afternoons are open, making it easier to go to school, pick up another part-time job, or take your kids to and from school.

Read more: We Asked: What's the Most Embarrassing Thing You've Ever Done in an Interview

The cons of working a swing shift

  • You’ll be starting your shift midday, so you may lose out on time with friends and family, i.e., dinner with friends is out

  • Most of your free time will be in the morning, unless you choose to stay up after your shift

  • Since swing shift hours aren’t ideal for everyone, it can be harder to get time off or find someone to cover your shift

  • You may have to adjust your sleep and eating schedule to more non-traditional hours to accommodate your shift

Should I be getting paid more for working the swing shift?

Since swing shift workers are giving up their free time during prime hours of the day, many employers offer advantages or extra compensation—but it isn’t required. Although the hours aren’t ideal, it’s still considered the same as other shift work, so the only real requirement is that your pay meets the minimum wage.

In the United States, the federal minimum wage is $7.25, but your state may have a different threshold; for example, the minimum wage in Georgia is just $5.15. According to the Department of Labor, however, your employer is required to pay you the higher of the two, whichever it may be. Currently, 29 states pay above the minimum wage, and in 2019, 18 states increased their minimum wage requirements. 

The good news is you might naturally make more money by working the swing shift. If you work in a hotel restaurant, for example, you’ll be working the dinner shift and have the chance to make more money. If you drive a cab or a Lyft, you’ll get the business of rush hour traffic. 

Read more: Why the Fight for $15 is a Feminist Issue

Adjusting to the swing shift lifestyle

If you’re permanently working the swing shift, you’ll have to adjust to the new lifestyle that the schedule brings. Here are a few tips to ease the transition:

  • Get ahead of managing your sleep schedule. You’ll likely be working late nights, which means falling asleep when you get home can be tough. Try turning off your phone when you get home, and do a calming activity like reading, journaling, or yoga, and make your bedtime a set routine.

  • Lean into it. Instead of thinking of all the things you miss out on during your shift, think of all the ways you can spend your time off—slow mornings sipping coffee, fitting in workouts before the 5 p.m. rush, and daytime hours to learn new skills.

Read more: 26 Time Management Tips for Finding More Time in Your Day

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