How to Transition to the Popular 4 Day, 10-hour Shift Schedule

Learn how to transition your public safety agency to a 4-day, 10-hour shift schedule to improve office well-being and potentially save costs.

May 16, 2024

Looking to transition to a 10-hour shift schedule where officers work 4 days on, 3 days off? You’re not alone. This shift pattern is a favorite among public safety agencies looking to cut costs and improve work-life balance.

The 4 on 3 off, 10-hour shift schedule is a great option for many law enforcement agencies, but the transition to a new schedule itself can bring its own set of challenges. Keep reading to uncover strategies to make your schedule transition a success.

Article Highlights

The benefits of a 4 on 3 off, 10-hour shift schedule for law enforcement

The [4 on 3 off] 10-hour shift schedule is popular for several reasons:

  • Improved work-life balance: An extra day off per week allows for longer periods of rest and relaxation between shifts, which can improve officer morale and well-being.
  • Potential for more weekends off: Depending on the week, officers may gain more weekends off compared to working 8-hour shifts.
  • Higher alertness: Compared to 8-hour and 12-hour shifts, officers working 10-hour shifts get significantly more sleep and are typically more alert.
  • Cost savings: Studies show that 10-hour shift schedules result in less overtime, not to mention working 4 days per week reduces the amount of  time spent commuting.
  • Schedule predictability: Having an extra day off per week gives officers more control over their schedule.

Read more about the Pros and Cons of 10-Hour Shifts for Police Departments

What does a 4-day, 10-hour shift schedule look like for law enforcement agencies?

Before we dive into specifics, it’s important to note the 4-day, 10-hour shift schedule can work for departments of almost any size. PowerDMS data shows that departments of anywhere between 15-150 people use this rotation schedule. 

Before implementing a 4-day, 10-hour shift schedule, you should be familiar with its core elements: 

  • Requires 3 squads to cover 3 shift times per day to ensure 24/7 coverage
  • Squads overlap for several hours during mid-shift
  • Usually follows a fixed schedule pattern

Key things to consider when transitioning to a new shift schedule

Adopting a new shift schedule can bring positive changes to your agency, but the transition  itself can be challenging if not properly planned. There are many variables to consider to ensure a smooth schedule transition:

  1. Minimum staffing and coverage: Determine the number of officers you need for each shift, especially the minimum staffing levels required to maintain coverage. Develop plans for dealing with unexpected absences, callouts, or demand surges.
  2. Union agreements: Ensure your new schedule adheres to all relevant union contracts and bargaining agreements before moving forward. Pay special attention to rules regarding consecutive hours worked, overtime calculations, and required rest periods between shifts.
  3. Payroll and overtime tracking: Changes to shift lengths and scheduling may require adjustments to your payroll processing. Make sure your processes accurately reflect changes to hours worked, overtime, and pay dates. Keep in mind the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) when developing schedules. You want to be sure regularly scheduled hours don’t exceed the overtime threshold.
  4. Officer preferences: While you can’t accommodate everyone’s preferred schedule, gathering officer input during the schedule planning process can foster buy-in and improve morale during the transition. Consider using software to make this process easier.
  5. Communication and training: Improving internal communication about scheduling changes is essential. Provide your officers with plenty of notice, explanations of the new schedule, and training on scheduling systems to ensure everyone’s on the same page.
  6. Administrative capacity: Changing schedules can be an administrative nightmare without the right tools. Scheduling software allows you to preview new schedule options, find gaps in shifts, and communicate new schedules to your officers easily. Some solutions allow you to develop future schedules ahead of time and make them available to staff on a certain date.

Different 4-day shift variations to consider

Depending on your unique needs, there are a number of variations to the 4-day shift that could work for your agency.

  • Rotations: Besides the 4 on 3 off rotation, you can consider other 10-hour shift schedules, including: [5 on 3 off] x3 [5 on 4 off] [4 on 4 off] x2, and [4 on 4 off]. Learn more about these shift schedules here.
  • Staggered start times: If you need to improve coverage, consider staggering start times so there’s a bit of overlap in the schedule. There may be more upfront planning involved with creating a staggered schedule, but it could be worth it.
  • On-call night shifts: For some agencies, regular night shifts, or other shifts with light call volume, can be replaced with on-call availability.
  • Mix of shift lengths: Consider scheduling a mix of 8-hour and 10-hour shifts to give your officers a shorter shift when they need it. While this provides some flexibility, it does make scheduling less predictable and more complex.

4 on 3 off, 10-hour police shift schedule template

Not sure where to start? Download our free template that allows you to plug in your staff and will auto calculate manpower to ensure you are covered before rolling it out.


Want to make it even easier? Scheduling software, like PowerTime, can save different templates you create, so all you have to do is choose the template to preview the new schedule, and it can automatically identify gaps. 

Plan and publish a new schedule with just a few clicks. Learn how PowerTime can help your agency save time, improve communication, reduce staffing errors, and maintain compliance.

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