What Is a Graveyard Shift?


Quick Answer

A graveyard shift is a shift of work. Unlike traditional work hours, graveyard shift hours originate in the evening. Graveyard shifts can run from 3 p.m. to midnight or from midnight to 8 a.m..

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What Is a Graveyard Shift?
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Full Answer

As of 2015, a graveyard shift, sometimes known as a "third" shift, is a period of work that spans the evening or early morning hours. There is no single specific time that constitutes a graveyard shift as shift hours vary per employer.

The term "graveyard shift" is not specifically related to actual graveyards. The phrase is, however, associated with the lonesome, ill-at-ease feelings that can accompany working throughout the dead of night. The expression dates back to an article published in the May 15, 1895 issue of the New Albany Evening Tribune on the subject of coal mining. Among the superstitious, the graveyard shift was widely regarded as an unsettling time of the night. Sailors adopted a graveyard watch, typically between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m. It was known as such because of the silence aboard the ship during these late hours.

An estimated 2 million workers work the graveyard shift. These includes health care personnel, law enforcement workers, taxi drivers, retail workers such as convenience store staff, factory workers and others.

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