There are many work schedules that are called shiftwork. Shiftwork
involves working outside the normal daylight hours. That is, outside
the hours of around 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., the time period in which many
people in our society work a 7- to 8-hour shift. Shiftworkers might
work in the evening, in the middle of the night, overtime or extra-
long workdays. They also might work regular days at one time or
another. Many shiftworkers "rotate around the clock, which involves
changing work times from day to evening, or day to night. This might
happen at different times of the week or at different times of the
month. Police officers and firefighters, for example, often work rotating
shifts. Other workers might have a "permanent shift and only
work at night or in the evenings. Waiters and waitresses, for example,
might work only the evening shift. Night watchmen, on the other
hand, might work only the overnight or "graveyard shift.
Reasons for Shiftwork
There are several reasons for shiftwork. A major reason is that modern
technology has made it possible to do many activities at any time
of the day or night. This "24-hour society of ours requires that
important services be provided at all times. Critical services include
public safety, such as police and fire protection; military defense;
health care; transportation; and public utilities, such as electrical
power, water and telephone. Other industries must operate 24 hours
per day because the production process is much longer than 8 hours
and must be performed continuously. Many chemical products
require such a process. Also, manufacturing industries often have
expensive machinery that needs to be operated continuously in order
to be profitable.
Because several occupations and industries operate around the clock,
other services have expanded their hours to accommodate evening
and nighttime workers. (They also have expanded access for all the
rest of us who simply enjoy the convenience.) Some obvious examples
are grocery stores, gas stations, and restaurants that are open
24 hours per day, seven days per week. The increase in these
expanded-time services in the past decade or two has opened up the
job market for new shiftworkers. This is ironic. Because there are so
many shiftworkers, society now needs more shiftworkers.
Who Works Night Jobs?
Estimates of the number of shiftworkers varies with the definition of
shiftwork. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that about five percent
of American adults work in the evening. Permanent night workers
and workers with irregular schedules make up another four percent.
Still another four percent are rotating shiftworkers. All together,
this amounts to about 15.5 million people.
Almost any occupation or industry has some people doing shiftwork.
A quick check of lists provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics
shows about 2 to 10 percent of almost any occupation
working evening, night, or rotating shifts. These kinds of
schedules happen quite often among police officers and
firefighters. More than half of them work evenings and
nights, and about a quarter of them rotate shifts. Many
transportation and public utility workers about one-fifth
of them also work shifts. Long-haul truckers often make
their best time in the evening or at night.
Lately, many materials must be delivered "just in time, or
just before they are used in manufacturing. For example,
parts for making automobiles are delivered this way. This practice has
forced more truckers to take trips at all hours and at the last minute
to make their deliveries on time.
Night Work Demographics
If we look only at full-time jobs, men work more night and rotating
shifts, while women work more evening shifts and do more part-time
work. However, full-time shiftworking women are not far behind in
numbers. And more women are entering the workforce full time, so
these numbers are changing quickly. Younger people are more likely
to work shifts than older people. African-Americans do more shiftwork
than Caucasian-Americans. Single people work more shifts than
married people. If we look at married couples who each have paying
jobs, about one-quarter to one-third of these couples have at least
one partner who is a shiftworker. If we look at mothers with children
at home, single mothers work shifts more often than married mothers.
Why People Choose 2nd and 3rd Shift Jobs
Some workers actually prefer non-day work, but most do not seek
out shiftwork. Reasons for employees choosing shiftwork include
better pay, more available time during the day for child care, more
daylight hours for recreation, and more time to attend school. Some
workers prefer the night shift because it is quieter and there are fewer
supervisors. Usually, however, workers say they did not choose shiftwork.
They do it either because it is required of the job, or no other
job is available.
Credit to: Plain Language About Shiftwork Roger R. Rosa 1 Michael J. Colligan 2 U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES