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Which Shift to You Prefer to Work?

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Right now our unit at work is extremely busy while we push to meet a major client deliverable. Due to the structure of our work, we’ve been working longer hours and splitting the day to have more coverage to get things done.

My current schedule. My normal work schedule is 8-5 with an hour lunch break, but there is some flex time involved. The main objective is for me to work 40 hours per week, and if that means coming in early and leaving early, or putting in a couple late nights and getting out early on Friday, then that’s what it takes.

I much prefer this arrangement vs. my old job which had a rigid 8-5 schedule (with lunch break). In the old position, it was very difficult to deviate from that schedule and basically needed managerial approval. In their defense, it was a consulting position at the client site, so it was more difficult for my old company to justify expenses if I wasn’t physically there.

Which shift is the best to work?

So which shift do you prefer to work? I’ve worked them all – from my days in high school working the after school shift at a grocery store and working nights stocking department store shelves, to the US AIr Force where I worked every shift imaginable. I worked days, nights, weekends, holidays, and even one 36 hour stretch where my only break was to get some food. Surprisingly, the 36 hour shift wasn’t the worst. The worst was working a combination of days, swings, and mids in the same week, then coming in for weekend duty. For those not in the military, exercises suck! ;)

Here are the standard shifts:

Day shift: Day shift normally runs 8am-4pm or some variation. This is my favorite shift to work because it has normal sleeping hours and is the easiest to plan around. This is also the easiest shift to work while raising a family.

Swing shift: Swing shift, or second shift, usually runs 4pm-12am or similar hours. In my experience, this is where a lot of the work gets done because the bosses are gone for the day and there are fewer meetings and administration to attend to. The worst part is when you are trying to wrap up everything early on Friday so you can go out and you end up staying until 3 or 4 in the morning.

Night shift: Night shift, mids, graveyard shift… Many names, same shift. Mids usually covers the hours of 12am-8am or similar hours. When I was in the USAF, I volunteered to work this shift for two years so I could attend night school full time and get my degree. It was my best financial move in college because the military paid me to go to school. It wasn’t always easy going to bed at 10 am, sleeping until 3pm, then getting up, going to class, then immediately going to work. But the payoff was a degree and opportunity that I wouldn’t have otherwise had. The other benefit was there were fewer people in the way at work so it was easier to get my job done.

Split shift: Split shifts can be short 4-6 hour shifts like a part time job, or they can be full time hours split for coverage. Depending on where you work, you may not know your schedule until a couple days or weeks before you work. This makes planning life difficult. Split shifts can also be rough on your body if the hours are constantly changing. I’ve worked my fair share of these shifts; in the military the goal was to have coverage at all hours of the day.

Twelves: 12 hour shifts. I’ve worked more than my fair share of 12 hour shifts, and I don’t miss them at all! Especially when 12 hours meant show up half an hour to an hour early to get turnover, and stay an extra half hour to an hour to give turnover and wrap everything up. Often those 12 hour sifts turned into 13-14 hours. 12 hour shifts are common in medical fields, and among military, policemen, laborers, and similar professions, usually where around the clock coverage is necessary.

24 hour duty: This one is rough, but often you are on call and allowed to sleep. The best example would be firefighters or the on call medical staff at a hospital.

No shift: Those who are self employed, athletes, business owners, freelancers, writers, musicians, performance artists, and others may not have a shift at all. But that doesn’t mean they don’t work hard. Often, they work more hours because they know they will reap the benefits of their labor. They also tend to intertwine their lives with their work.

Which is your favorite? My current favorite is day shift so I can spend more time with my wife and easily take care of errands. But I’ve worked them all, and they all have their advantages and disadvantages. Which do you prefer? (click through to see the poll).

Reader Poll: Which Shift to You Prefer to Work?

  • Days: 8-4 (49%, 221 Votes)
  • Swings: 4-12 (18%, 80 Votes)
  • I’m just thankful to have a job (14%, 62 Votes)
  • Mids: 12-8 (10%, 47 Votes)
  • Twelves: 12 hour shifts (9%, 41 Votes)

Total Voters: 451 (poll has ended – thanks for participating!)


Published or updated April 7, 2011.
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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Dividend Growth Investor

Just like you I have worked wierd shifts. The only one that I enjoy is working 8-5.

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2 Ron@TheWisdomJournal

Prefer days, but wish it was NO SHIFT!

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3 Eric

When I was in the USAF I covered all shifts, but I was in a messaging center for my swing and midnight shifts. It was good at the time because it was really slow and allowed me to do a lot of studies with out having to actually work.

I think the USAF warped me. towards the latter half of my 3.4 years I would work from 7-4 so I could attend night school. I sacrificed quite a bit of free time but like you, I believe it was the best decision I made.

I’ve been out for 4 years and now a contractor. I still work similar hours. up at 0530, at work by 0700 and out of work by 1500. My morning commute takes 15 minutes if I leave at 6:40, if I leave at 7 it takes 30 minutes, and it just goes up from there. When I leave at 3, I hit no traffic on the way to the gym. I am usually in and out of the gym by 4:30 and home by 4:30-4:45 right before traffic starts getting bad!

The reason I enjoy this is two fold. 1) no traffic either way, and i still get a decent amount of my day to enjoy with my family
2) most people I work with don’t show up until 9 or 10. I usually get 2-3 solid hours in without anyone around to interrrupt me.

-Eric

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4 Frugal Dad

I’ve worked all shifts at some point in my life. I even worked graveyard in a call center, also to put myself through school. I was newly married, and my wife worked days. We didn’t see each other much that first year – maybe that’s why we’re still married ten years later!

I’ve move on to a traditional day shift, which has it’s pros and cons, but it probably the most culturally acceptable.

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5 Ryan

Great comments everyone!

Eric,
Your story sounds similar to mine. Very cool. :)

Ron,
No shift is my ultimate goal as well. ;)

deepali,
It sounds like you have a lot going on! I’m sure the sacrifice will be well worth it though! :)

Frugal Dad, when my wife and I were first married she was working 12′s as a nurse in teh USAF and and had no set schedule other than 6-6 (nights or days depending when they needed her). It was awful! She could work 2 days, off 3, work one, off one, work three, standby, work two, etc. Craziness! She also worked weekends and holidays. It was tough to plan anything! Thankfully we both work the day shift now. :)

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6 deepali

Well, that depends. I have about 3 different jobs, all of which are pretty flex. I also work from home when I want… and writing a thesis is like another part-time job. So, I guess I fall under no shift? Work and life are pretty integrated for me at this point. :)

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7 Jarhead

Being in the Marine Corps I have had similar experiences to both Ryan and Eric. By far the worst was when we put in 100 hour weeks for three straight weeks. This wasn’t even in support of a deployment or gettin ready to go just stuff that had to be done. For the most part though the 7-430 that we normally work is good especially since we can take 2 hour lunches for gym time and what not as long as we aren’t too busy.

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8 No Debt Plan

I voted 12s simply because I’d love to work 3.5 days per week and then be off the rest of the time.

Pipe dream, of course.

Then again I’d love to be an entrepreneur and work my own hours, too.

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9 MBL

I work the third shift (or as you put it, the swing shift) which is fine by me because it frees my time up during the day to do normal things that occur during business hours. I used to work the day shift but found that whenever I needed to do something, all the businesses were closed by the time I got off work or I would have to take time off from work (using my PTO time) to go to appointments.I don’t think I could ever work the graveyard though. Great post.

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10 Kristen

My old job I worked a combination of day, mid-day and swing shifts throughout the week. I never had a dependable schedule. Now I work a Monday through Friday 8 to 5 job with an hour for lunch.

I have to admit that I used to hate my old random job schedule, but I find the new set shift a bit stifling. I have less flexibility to fit in doctors appointments, errands, etc. Like MBL, I have found that most businesses aren’t open before I go to work and are closed by the time I get out. It was sort of nice to have a Monday off or a Thursday morning.

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11 Ryan

deepali,

That’s even better. :)

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12 deepali

I actually don’t feel like I’m sacrificing anything….. do what you love. :)

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13 guinness416

I did a 13 hour shift yesterday but in general I’ve worked days since leaving college, construction hours. I am convinced my university days (when I bartended and often worked all night in hotel residents’ bars) has permanently warped my internal clock; I’m still most productive and alive when it’s late. Anyone else experience something like that? Maybe I’m just projecting.

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14 RC@ThinkYourWayToWealth

I’ve done day evening and night shifts, both 8hrs. and part-time while I was in school, I used to like the night shift, but i think now I am a day person, and am used to getting up early.

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15 Ryan

guinness416,

I don’t think you’re projecting. I know quite a few people like this. I can go back and forth as far as hours productivity goes, but it might take awhile to make the transition.

RC, I’m used to the day shift no too, and that’s what I prefer now.

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16 NatalieMac

Well, my favorite shift of all isn’t even listed here. It’s sort of a late day shift. Starting between 10 and 11am and working 8 hours or so from there.

It’s my favorite because it allows me to get up, work out, spend some time reading, and eat a leisurely breakfast before heading to work, which takes less time because I’m missing the hours of most everyone else’s morning commute – all without having to get up while it’s still dark outside.

When I worked 8-5 I never had any desire to get up early enough for a workout before work.

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17 Ryan

Not a bad shift to work, NatalieMac. I’ve worked similar hours before. The only problem I can see with a shift like that would be working around schedules if you had children or other obligations. Otherwise, it’s kinda the best of all worlds! :)

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18 Douglas

I like second shift, I work 4PM-12:30 AM.

It allows me to do things in the morning, like go to the mall without having to deal with huge crowds, that I would if i’d wait till 5:00 PM.

The only downside is that I don’t have time to do anything with my nights any more, but I’ve learned to deal with it, and actually prefer the second shift, I work at hospital, and most of the visitors are gone after 8 PM, which makes the job that much easier.

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