1st 2nd 3rd shift hours

1st, 2nd, and 3rd Shift Hours: What’s the Difference?

If you’re curious about 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift hours, you’re not alone. Many get confused about which shift works when and the times involved. The subject often gets even more clouded because businesses can define these shifts any way they want to.

For example, a restaurant that’s open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. may define their shifts like this:

  • 1st shift is from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • 2nd shift is from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • 3rd shift is from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m.

However, a business that runs around the clock will need to define their shifts differently in order to cover all the work hours. It’s from this latter example that the standard 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift hours come.

In this article, we discuss the hours of the three shifts in the standard model, the differences between them, and the pros and cons of each so you have a foundation for understanding how your own schedule works and how you can customize it for the better.

Table of contents

1st shift hours

As we mentioned, we’re going to discuss 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift hours from the perspective of a business that operates 24 hours a day. From this example (sometimes called the standard model), you can build your own shifts to cover the hours your business is open.

So, what are typical 1st shift hours?

First shift normally runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

For businesses that are only open during the day, first shift is the standard “9-to-5” that we’re all familiar with. But some businesses make this shift 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break from noon to 1 p.m.


Family time

Working 1st shift hours gives an employee more time to spend with their family because other jobs and schools run roughly during the same hours.

Employee availability and training

Finding substitutes for no-call, no-show team members and other types of absences on the first shift is typically easier because most people prefer to work the more normal “9-to-5” hours.

Business interactions

First shift is when the majority of other businesses are open as well, so the hours between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. are essential if your team interacts with, needs assistance from, or needs to talk directly with someone from another organization.


Conflicts with non-work activities

Working 1st shift hours can make it difficult for employees to find time for important non-work activities, like seeing a doctor, taking care of elderly family members, or keeping the kids home from school when they’re sick.

If things like this do come up, employees will often have to take time off from their first shift job in order to fulfill their responsibilities.

Busy commute

In many metropolitan areas, the hours on either side of the first shift are aptly named “rush hour” because everyone is in a hurry to get to work on time.

This makes for a busy commute — both heading to work and going home — that can add stress and strain to your employee’s already busy lives.

Lack of personal time

When employees get off work at 4 p.m. or 5 p.m. and return home, they then have to satisfy family responsibilities that haven’t already been taken care of.

These responsibilities can cut into an employee’s downtime and leave them tired and stressed the next day when they return to work.

2nd shift hours

Second shift is sometimes called the “evening” or “swing” shift and often covers the remaining daylight hours that a business is open.

In the standard model, second shift normally runs from 4 p.m. to midnight.


Time for appointments

Working 2nd shift hours gives employees more free time for appointments that normally occur between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.

In most cases, employees don’t have to report to work until 4 p.m., so they have time during the day to make important appointments.

Easier commute

In most cases, the second shift starts before the regular 9-to-5 businesses let out, so employees will be traveling to work during a less busy time and may have an easier commute.

Fewer distractions

Because 2nd shift hours extend past 5 or 6 p.m. (closing time for most), there might be fewer distractions from other businesses.

Similarly, most people who have worked the first shift are on their way home, so there may be fewer interruptions (e.g., calls and walk-ins) to pull second-shift employees away from their work.


Poor social life

Most first-shift employees allow time for a social life after they get off work. But employees who work 2nd shift hours have less of an opportunity for a social life because they’re on the job when the first-shifters’ social life begins.

Similarly, first-shifters are typically ready for bed when second-shift employees are finished with work and ready to socialize.

Fluctuating schedule

In some cases, businesses with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift hours will rotate their employees through those three options. Such fluctuations can wreak havoc with an employee’s personal life and ability to fulfill non-work obligations.

Fewer opportunities to work directly with higher-ups

Another con that comes with working 2nd shift hours is that employees may not work with their bosses. Management may work the first shift and never (or rarely) get to interact with second- and third-shift employees.

This can make it difficult for employees to get to know higher-ups and can potentially hurt overall morale.

3rd shift hours

Third shift is more commonly called the night shift and covers the time between the end of second shift and closing (or the beginning of first shift if the business runs for 24 hours).

In the standard model, third shift normally runs from midnight to 8 a.m.


Higher pay

Third shift often comes with higher pay in the form of a shift differential. This increase in the hourly rate can entice employees to work the night shift and help them pay their bills.

Can serve as a stepping stone

Because third shift operates at night, it can be a less desirable shift. But it can also serve as a way for an employee to get their foot in the door in order to then work their way up to second or first shift hours.

More independence

Third-shift employees are often asked to work more on their own and without the direct supervision of a manager.

The opportunity to work independently can be a real attraction for some and can act as a way to reduce the on-the-job pressure that may occur during the first and second shifts.


Social isolation

Working 3rd shift hours often leaves employees with less co-worker interaction and less time with their family and friends who work during the day.

Possible health issues

For some, the night shift may come with the potential for health issues, including:

  • Insomnia
  • Depression
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems

These issues can be minimized with the right lifestyle changes, but the possibility exists that some may not be able to handle 3rd shift hours.

Reduced contact with management

Management often works first or second shift, and this separation from third-shift employees may limit opportunities for those team members and decrease their recognition and advancement.

Organize 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift hours with Sling

Whether your business has 1st shift hours, 2nd shift hours, 3rd shift hours, or a combination of all three, keeping your employees organized can be a time-consuming task.

That’s where scheduling software, like Sling, comes in.

The Sling app can help simplify the process of scheduling your team — regardless of how complicated the shifts are — so that you can sit down, build a staff rota, 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.

The advanced features that Sling offers can help you organize and manage 1st, 2nd, and 3rd shift hours faster and with less confusion and fewer mistakes so that work flows better and without the common issues that may slow it down.

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.

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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.

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