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Who Works the Night Shift?
Surviving the Night
Sleep
Talk About It

There is a new and growing nocturnal work force lurking in the neon glow. Today, Americans are working jobs at nights that were traditionally worked during the regular work day hours of 9 to 5. And in an age of fast economic change, you could be next.

White-Collar Work Increasingly Done at Night

The graveyard or the third-shift hours of 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., once predominantly worked by factory workers, bakers, security guards, and other blue-collar workers, is now also filling its ranks with energy brokers, computer programmers, and financial advisors.

Between 1991 and 1997, there was an 11 percent increase in the number of white-collar employees working evenings or nights, compared to a 6 percent increase among blue-collar workers on those hours, according to 1997 figures gathered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

You could blame it on old Thomas Edison and the light bulb. But most of the growth in night shift work is rooted in the growing global economy. As more businesses and workforces operate and compete in multiple time-zones across countries' borders, the 24-hour work day is taking its hold almost everywhere.

Yet even with these growing numbers, white-collar work is still only a small portion of the nocturnal work force:

  • Of the over 27 million workers who are in managerial and professional work, only 1.3 percent work the night shift and only 1.7 percent work the evening shift (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
  • Of the over 25 million technical, sales, and administrative support workers, 2.1 percent work the night shift and 3.5 percent work the evening shift (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Blue-Collar Workers on the Late Shifts

The prevalence of night and evening shift work is greatest among those in service occupations and those who are operators, fabricators, and laborers:

  • Of the over 11 million service workers (which include those in protective services, food service, and cleaning services), 6.5 percent work the night shift and 10.8 percent work the evening shift (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).
  • Of the over 14 million operators, fabricators, and laborers, 7.4 percent work the night shift and 7.7 percent work the evening shift (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

Who Works the Night Shift and Why?

If you work the night or evening shifts, you are not alone. Three million Americans work graveyards and another four million work evening shifts (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics).

And while many workers are feeling stretched in the fast changing 24 hour, 7 days a week world, others are choosing to work nights:

  • Read about Dorothy, a grocery shopper for an Internet grocery company, who works nights so she can raise her children during the day.
  • Read about Teresa, a computer chip bonder, who takes on-site classes and sees her job on the night shift as a stepping stone to other positions within the company.
  • Read about Ramona, a dairy farmer, who works nights at a packaging plant in order to earn extra income and have some time off the farm.
  • Read about Robert, a night systems administrator at an Internet company, who is taking advantage of the high-tech boom.
  • Read about Carol, an early morning news anchor, who works to move up in her career but isn't sure how much longer she can work the night shift.
  • Read about Amy, a night emergency room nurse, who wouldn't work days, even if paid more.


What motivates you to work the night shift?
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