Second Shift: What It Is, Examples, And Hours

By Chris Kolmar - Jan. 11, 2021
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Whether you just started job hunting or already have a schedule for your new position, you might come across the term “second shift.” Well, given the fact that no one can work 24 hours a day, every day, it’s no surprise that companies split work into designated shifts that occupy a set time frame every day.

Of course, understanding the details about different shift types will help you prepare for a position you’re interested in.

If you’ve noticed that you might be working more second shifts, you’re probably wondering what working second shift hours will mean for you. After all, it’s important to have shifts that are compatible with your lifestyle and allow you to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Especially if you have the option to choose your shift types, it’s critical to know the facts so you can determine what works best for you.

With that in mind, this article will explore the nature of having a second shift, its benefits, various other types of other shifts, and how to choose the right shift hours for your lifestyle when given the option.

Common Hours for Second Shifters

While second shift hours can vary based on the position you’ve been hired for, the shift will typically start in the afternoon and end at or before midnight. Generally speaking, the most common time frame for a second shift will be 4 p.m.-12 a.m.

This shift will immediately follow the morning shift, otherwise known as the first shift, so you won’t have to head to work early in the morning. Additionally, the common hours for a second shift will only stray from the usual 4 p.m.-12 a.m. if you work at a job that is open to the public 24 hours a day, or one that opens/closes earlier or later in the day than most other businesses.

For the most part, though, a second shift entails working 8 hours during the afternoon, through dinnertime, and partially into the night.

Second Shift Benefits

If you’ve been assigned to second shifts or are looking into making some schedule changes, here are some benefits to having a second shift:

  • Sleeping in. Unlike your average morning shift, working a second shift allows you to sleep in as much as you like. After all, if you have nothing to do before your shift, you don’t have to feel pressured to rally yourself awake and get going right away. This can be a huge stress reliever and help you distance yourself from coffee and energy drinks.

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  • Easier appointments. When you’re not sleeping in, you’ll find that it’s much easier to schedule important appointments. Doctors, banks, and government buildings will all be open in the morning when you don’t have to work. Overall, your morning availability will make scheduling much easier.

  • Time for errands. When you’re always free in the mornings, you’ll have time to do chores like grocery shopping, visiting the post office, or picking up prescriptions.

    There are almost no businesses that will be closed during your free time. Working the second shift can also make it easier to make an appointment with the doctor or visit a place during the week.

  • Helpful when you have young children. If you’re a parent and your child doesn’t attend school yet, a second shift can allow you to take care of your child during the day.

    Additionally, because first shifts are more popular, your partner may be able to come home from the first shift and take over childcare duties. In this way, you’d save money on daycare costs and have more time with your child.

  • Easier pet care. If you’ve ever had a dog, you know that sometimes your life revolves around their needs. You have to think about their feeding schedule, daily walks, and training sessions.

    Luckily, even if you live in a location where the sun sets at 4 p.m. in the winter, having a second shift will allow you to walk your dog during the day and prepare them for naptime before you leave.

  • Less traffic. Due to the popularity of morning shifts, there is often a high traffic volume during the morning and afternoon. However, if you work the second shift, you’ll likely arrive at your job before the biggest wave of rush hour traffic hits. Even better, when you leave, you’ll barely have to deal with traffic at all.

  • Fewer workplace distractions. In general, morning shifts can be busier and more chaotic. The higher-ups will often be working on paperwork or other important tasks in the morning, and you may have a manager or two breathing down your neck.

    With that in mind, working the second shift may allow you to focus more on your current projects and worry less about customers, managers, and any other distractions.

  • Pay differentials. Because morning shifts are more popular, companies will often offer pay differentials for second shift employees. This means that commonly, second shift workers earn slightly higher wages than first shift coworkers.

    Even if the differential is only a few cents, it adds up with over time. Besides, more money for the same work is always a plus!

The Different Shift Types

Even when companies are closed to the public, they usually need workers for various tasks 24/7. After all, for companies to be efficient, there must be many cogs meshing together behind the scenes, even after hours.

With that in mind, work shifts are designed to organize labor and optimize business functionality. Typically, shifts overlap slightly, which allows new employees to replace old ones from the previous shift harmoniously.

Sometimes part-time workers or supporting staff may work random shifts, but companies usually prefer to assign specific shift types to individual workers. Here are two examples of how people may be assigned shift types:

  • Fixed shift. If you work full time, you may more than likely have a fixed shift. Employees with this shift schedule work the same shift-type every day. For example, if you work second shifts on a fixed schedule, you’ll always have second shifts.

  • Rotating shift. While this shift type is more common with part-time workers and supporting staff members, there are also full-time employees with this schedule. When an employee works a rotating shift schedule, their shift types will vary day-to-day. For example, they could work the first shift one day, then the second shift the next day.

Many people tend to prefer fixed shifts because they can better schedule their lives outside of work. If you’ve been assigned a fixed shift, or are thinking about having one, here are some common shift types companies utilize:

  1. First shift. If you’ve ever associated working with the term 9-5, this shift time is where that expression comes from. As the most traditional shift type, the first shift typically runs from 8 or 9 a.m. to 5 or 6 p.m., with one hour provided for lunch. With this shift type, you’ll start working in the morning and finish working in the afternoon.

  2. Second shift. As mentioned in this article, this shift usually runs from around 4 p.m. to midnight. When you work this shift, you’ll start working in the late afternoon and be home late at night.

  3. Third shift. This shift, otherwise known as the night shift, usually starts around midnight, keeps you up through the night until sunrise. A typical night shift may have you working from 12 a.m. to 8 a.m.

  4. Split shift. This shift entails working two separate shifts on the same day. For this to be legal, the two shifts are separated by a longer than usual lunch break.

    While these shifts aren’t super common compared to the others, you may come across them in a few different industries. For example, a restaurant worker may clock in for the lunch rush, take a break, and then clock back in for a dinner rush.

  5. Weekend shift. Common with students and other part-time workers, someone who works weekend shifts will work on the weekend instead of the weekdays.

What Shift Works for You?

Choosing a successfully fixed shift schedule is an important decision, as your shifts will have a significant impact on how you live your life. Each shift type has unique pros and cons you should consider, and ultimately, you should think about what fits your current lifestyle and preferences.

You wouldn’t get a border collie if you’re a couch potato, so don’t go for morning shifts if you’re a night owl! Know yourself first.

With that in mind, here are some things you should consider:

  • Pay differentials. Often, less popular shifts will have slightly higher pay as an incentive for people to work them. For example, a third shifter may receive a dollar more per hour than a first shifter. If you need extra money, you should calculate the pay differences between various shift types and see what works for your budget.

  • Know your sleep schedule. When you’re looking at shift types, knowing your preferred sleep schedule is a must. If you’re a natural early bird, perhaps working the first shift would be ideal for you.

    On the other hand, a night owl might struggle to wake up for morning shifts and regularly sacrifice valuable sleep time. Even if night shifts pay more than morning shifts, it may not be worth the exhaustion.

  • Evaluate your social life. If you’re a social butterfly and enjoy spending time with your friends, weekend shifts and night shifts may not be the right fit for you. Certain shift types can be incredibly isolating, so you should consider that before you choose one.

  • Scheduling potential. If you have a rotating shift schedule or work certain hours, it may be more difficult to plan future activities or schedule appointments.

    For example, someone who works the first shift may struggle to find time to go to the bank, or someone with a rotating schedule may not know when they can schedule their Halloween party. When choosing your shift schedule, you should think about how that shift will impact your normal schedule.

  • Personal responsibilities. If you have children or pets, your shift type can affect how you’re able to care for them. While it might be easier to care for a child that attends school with a first shift, it may also be easier to care for a baby with a second shift.

    Consider how you usually take care of those you’re responsible for and how your shift hours may alter that schedule.

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Chris Kolmar


Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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