Shift Length and Officer Wellness & Alertness

The most valuable resource in any organization is its people.  With this in mind, agencies should be concerned about the health, wellness and mental alertness of officers and other shift workers. One way to improve the well-being of officers is to understand the research on shift length and its impact on these factors. A randomized-controlled trial experiment conducted by the Police Foundation found:

1. Officers on 12-hour shifts reported being less alert and sleepier on the job than those on 8- or 10-hour shifts, suggesting diminishing returns as shift length is increased beyond the 10-hour period.

2. Ten-hour shifts resulted in increased sleep, improved quality of life, and reduced overtime when compared to 8-hour shifts, regardless of the time of day in which the shift occurred.

3. Since work hours for law enforcement personnel are not regulated, unlike other high-risk industries like aviation and trucking, agencies should advise against excessive off-duty and overtime work, both of which can increase fatigue and the risk of accidents.

4. Agencies should ensure sufficient time between shifts (about 12 hours) to allow time for sleep, transportation to and from the job, eating, and decompression.

Additional Resources

In an effort to provide helpful suggestions in areas that have not yet been fully studied or evaluated, we have included ideas for responses and activities that may not yet be considered evidence-based or evidence-informed. Therefore, not all actions and strategies included within this App are evidence-based or evidence-informed.