Finding a Part Time Job

What is Shift Work and How to Organize It

Max. D Gray
By Max. D Gray. Updated: January 16, 2017
What is Shift Work and How to Organize It

When it comes to the professional world, thee are many different kinds of work days. Today we'll focus on shift work, which is similar but not the same as part time work. While it's not that common in the service sector, where businesses and institutions follow commercial opening hours, factories and companies in general opt for this type of working day.

Once we have that in mind, we can start discussing the concept in more depth. Stay with us at OneHowTo to learn what is shift work and how to organize it.

You may also be interested in: How to Get Out of a Work Contract Legally

Steps to follow:


First of all, you probably know that workdays can be spread out and arranged into different parts of the day and lengths of time; some people work for longer hours and some people work for less, and you can have people in the same company working at different times. The time of the day when someone is working is their "shift".

If shifts are properly distributed, a company can be open for business and running for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is a way of keeping production constantly active, which is very useful in the case of factories where turning the equipment on and off is a serious cost.

It is also a very important strategy in public institutions such as hospitals or emergency services, since accidents and disasters not only occur during business hours. Dividing the workday into shifts means that there will always be someone at hand and the situation will be dealt with in time.


There are several possibilities when programming a working day into shifts. In many countries, the maximum working hours per day at 8; daily 8-hour shifts are therefore a very common arrangement.

For instance, a factory or institution can be kept active throughout an entire day by having someone working the 8 am - 4 pm shift, another worker doing the 4 pm - midnight shift, and someone else working the midnight - 8 am shift.


Another option is to assign 6-hour daily shifts for each of the workers. This, of course, requires another worker and it means more intensive work during a shorter period.


However, establishing shifts in a company is not as easy as that. Various aspects must be considered, because time and productivity are not the only thing to take into account. In fact, shift work can have a serious effect in the workers' physical and mental health.

To begin with, the worker that does the night shift must be paid a night surcharge. In addition, if a shift falls on a Sunday - or the most common day off in a particular country - or a holiday, the person's wage should also increase during these working hours.

This is because not all shifts are equal, and thus they must be compensated differently. Night shifts are harder for workers, since injuries and accidents multiply and the quality of their sleep diminishes, making it more difficult to concentrate. Moreover, night work makes it very difficult to balance professional and family life, since the worker might not see their children or be able to take care of their family when they are at home.


These surcharges are not always applied. For instance, in Spain, if the total length of weekly shifts does not exceed 36 hours, a surcharge will not be necessary for shifts worked during the night, on Sundays or on a holiday.


In order to understand what is shift work and whether it is worth it to you or your company, it must be noted that a worker should not always have the same shift. Being trapped in the late night shift, for instance, would be hugely unfair, even with a surcharge.

Work shifts must be organized by rotating the workers' hours so that they change. However, this also has consequences for the workers' health, since their sleep patterns and routines are constantly changing.

Now that you know what is shift work and how to organize it, it is very important that you learn about your company's policies and your own rights.

If you want to read similar articles to What is Shift Work and How to Organize It, we recommend you visit our Employment category.

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What is Shift Work and How to Organize It