In addition to two national surveys completed in 2005 and 2009 to establish trends in shift length, the Police Foundation’s Shift Length Experiment provided the first major scientific study of the effects of 8-hour, 10-hour and 12-hour shifts on the performance and quality of life of law enforcement officers. The latest addition to the Foundation’s Five Things Series, “5 Things You Need to Know about Shift Work” provides a one-page recap of those findings. The national surveys showed that there was an increasing trend toward compressed schedules.
The findings from this study suggest that at least for medium to large police agencies, cost savings can be realized when implementing 10-hour shifts in comparison to 8-hour shifts. Also, officers on 10-hour shifts obtain, on average, about 30 minutes more sleep per 24 hours as compared to those on 8-hour shifts, which is likely to increas
e safety and wellness among officers. Given previous reported deficiencies in sleep among officers nationwide (see e.g. Vila, Kenney, Morrison, & Reuland, 2000), implementing four consecutive 10-hour shifts may be one approach to minimizing fatigue-related problems and risks. In addition to increased sleep, officers on 10-hour shifts demonstrated increased levels of quality of work life, which may also be beneficial to their emotional well being . Although some similar benefits extended to those on 12-hour shifts, in comparison to 8-hour shifts, there was significantly more reported fatigue (sleepiness) on 12-hour shifts, as well as decreased alertness on the job. These findings overall suggest that compressed schedules may be associated with increased benefits, but that there may be diminishing returns and increased risks to officers on shifts of 12 hours or more.
The Shift Length Experiment found that 10-hour shifts as compared to 8-hour shifts, resulted in:
- Increased quality of work life;
- Significantly more sleep by officers (approximately 30 minutes more per 24-hour period); and
- significantly reduced overtime expenditures.
More information is available on the Police Foundation’s Shift Length Experiment here.