11 Types of Job Shifts Managers Should Know

Assembling the right job shifts for your business and your employees can be a complicated and time-consuming task. But when you know what options are available, you can customize your schedule to better satisfy everyone’s needs.

In this article, we discuss some of the common types of job shifts to help you create the best work plan for your team.

Table of contents

What are job shifts?

Woman working a job shift at a coffee shop

Job shifts (or “work shifts”) are blocks of time that divide the day into more manageable parts so your business has employees at work for all the hours that it’s open.

The vast majority of shifts run for eight hours a day. Some, however, are shorter or longer in order to provide maximum coverage for the business.

Depending on when your business is open, your team may work:

  • Two shifts of 12 hours
  • Three shifts of eight hours
  • Four shifts of six hours
  • Four shifts of five hours and one shift of four hours

And, while many businesses rely on the five-day workweek, you may choose to structure the schedule so that your employees work all the hours of a full-time shift or a part-time shift in three or four days.

Again, it really depends on what your business needs to operate efficiently and be successful.

Types of job shifts

Man working second job shifts at a taco shop

1) First

The most common job shifts are first, second, and third.

The first shift — a.k.a. the day shift — is the more “traditional” workday that typically runs from 7:00, 8:00, or 9:00 a.m. to 3:00, 4:00, or 5:00 p.m. (although, even those hours may vary).

2) Second

The second shift — a.k.a. the swing shift — generally runs from the afternoon to around midnight.

For example, if your first shift runs from 7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., your second shift could run from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

3) Third

The third shift — a.k.a. the night shift, the graveyard shift, or any number of alternative names — typically runs from the end of the second shift to the beginning of the first shift.

For example, if your second shift runs from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., your third shift could run from 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. (at which time, your first shift would start again).

That said, all of these job shifts are flexible to the point that you can customize them to fit your company’s needs.

Your business may need 60 minutes of downtime between operational hours so that the first shift runs from 7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., second shift runs from 3:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and third shift runs from 11:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.

4) Flex job shifts

sunny beach bar

Flex job shifts are built around a set amount of core hours when all employees work at the same time. After the core hours are fulfilled, it’s entirely up to the employee when they accumulate the rest of their work hours.

For example, you may set your core hours at 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. with the stipulation that your employees may start their shift no earlier than 5:00 a.m. and finish their shift no later than 9:00 p.m.

With those rules in mind, a team member could choose to work 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with a one-hour break at 10:00 a.m. for lunch.


5) Split

Incorporating split shifts for your employees means they will work a few hours at one point during the day, have several hours off, and then work the rest of their hours during another part of the day.

For example, one team member might work from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., be off for five hours, and then finish working from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

6) Rotating

In a rotating job shift schedule, team members work first shift one week (or one day), second shift the next week (or the next day), and third shift the following week (or following day).

For example, if your business is open five days a week, the schedule might look something like this for one employee:

  • Monday through Friday of week one: First shift (7:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.)
  • Monday through Friday of week two: Second shift (3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.)
  • Monday through Friday of week three: Third shift (11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.)

7) On-call

Assigning an employee to work one of the on-call shifts means they would be available to work any time, day or night, as the employer demands — or, in some cases, not at all if there’s no need.

Most employers use on-call shifts to plan for emergencies or as a backup in case a no call, no show situation occurs.

The key variable is that the employee is available whether they actually come into the business or not.

8) Compressed

Sling for scheduling job shifts

Compressed work shifts typically provide the same number of hours as the regular “9-to-5” shifts, but do so in fewer days (e.g., four 10-hour days Monday through Thursday instead of five eight-hour days Monday through Friday).

This type of schedule can provide a better work-life balance for employees while still giving management the ability to plan and predict labor costs.

9) 9/80

In this unique shift schedule, team members work four nine-hour days (36 hours) followed by one eight-hour day. For payroll purposes, you apply the first half of the eight-hour workday to the first week and the second half to the following week.

All told, that adds up to 40 hours worked Monday through Friday of the first week, and 40 hours worked Monday through Thursday of the second week with that Friday completely off

10) Unpredictable job shifts

Unpredictable shifts change from week to week (or even day to day) without following a regular pattern.

This type of schedule can be difficult for employees because they have no idea when they’ll work next. It can be difficult for employers because they have to recreate the schedule from scratch pretty much every time.

11) Fixed

Fixed shifts basically mean that an employee will work set days and hours, but they won’t necessarily work the standard “9-to-5” workweek.

For example, one employee might work Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., while another employee works Tuesday through Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Manage all job shifts with Sling

Manage all job shifts with Sling

If some of these job shifts seem a bit complicated to manage, don’t let that deter you from giving them a try. They may be just what your team and your business need.

Scheduling software, like Sling, can help simplify even the most complicated combination of job shifts so that you can sit down, make your schedule, and move on to more pressing matters.

All of Sling’s cloud-based features — from schedule creation to time clock to payroll calculations to task management and communication — help make it easy for you to build the best schedule possible, distribute it with ease, apply changes, and juggle time-off requests.

Sling even provides suggestions and warnings when you’ve double-booked a team member or created a conflict in another part of your schedule.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit GetSling.com today.

Last Updated: March 2023

This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR, or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

The post 11 Types of Job Shifts Managers Should Know appeared first on Sling.

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